One

The stadium was all but dark, with a solitary lamp post in one corner. It was six thirty in the evening, the perfect time of day for a run. The stadium bore a deserted look except for the lone runner whose silhouette could be seen in the misty distance. The only other company that P had were the dragonflies. The dragonflies that flew head-on into the bright light of the solitary lamp post as if to achieve immortality by immolating themselves in the brilliant tungsten flame.

It was R who turned P onto running at this hour, an hour he described as sacred. “The stadium is my temple and running is how I worship,” he often used to say. Maybe it was the naive mysticism R attached to it that lured P to the stadium the first time, but it was certainly something else that brought him back again and again. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was, but it was powerful enough to pull the usually lazy P out of his stupor and onto the six lane running track.

As he worked up a rhythm in his breathing pattern (inhale-hold-exhale-hold-inhale-hold-exhale-hold) his mind began to clear. The only thing that mattered was the metronome in his head against which he timed his breathing rhythm. All his earthly misery seemed to fade into the distance, left behind as he picked up pace. “Run towards the light ,” R used to say with his usual penchant for the metaphysical. It always amused P, but it was good advice. It was a goal. A simple goal. Run towards the light. It was a target to be achieved in an otherwise largely aimless life.

One of the reasons P liked running was that there was no competition. There was no score to beat , no scale to be compared against. You just ran until you couldn’t any longer. In a life that was a constant race, a race for recognition, for accolades , for what society described as success, it was ironic that the only escape that P found was running. He found meaning in his pointless perambulations.

On reaching his full pace, he closed the gap between himself and the other runner on the track. As he passed him by, he recognized the face. It was K, a classmate of his. “Hey K!” He called out as he ran past, leaving K squinting in the semi-darkness, struggling to identify his accoster. Why did K run at this lonesome hour? Was he too in search of some kind of solace, or were his reasons merely calisthenic?

Now at the end of his stay in college, P was prone to spending long hours in introspection (since he had not much else to do). He reflected back on his four years wondering where they all went ( his sense of worthlessness amplified by the events of the recent past). Was this the education he was looking for? Had he done anything worthwhile? Was it necessary for everyone to do something worthwhile? Do they also serve who stand and wait? Silly sophomoric philosophical rambling his friends used to say, but maybe silly questions needed to be asked, maybe the past had to be analysed. P always thought of the present as being on the peak of a tall mountain, with the vast vista of one’s past visible in varying degrees on the plains below. Events that happened long ago faded into the horizon, while the recent past was clearly visible. Every twist in the road, every wrong path taken there for one to see.His years in college flashed past his mind’s eye as he lay down on the slightly wet grass, panting.

As he lay there staring at the sky, he heard K approach and sit down beside him. “So, it was you,” he said, “I didn’t recognize you back there at first,” he said. P smiled in response. After stretching a bit, K too lay down beside him gazing at the sky. “You know, it reminded me of some lines from a story we had in school – Dusk, I think it was called .”  P sat up at once, he had read the story in school too, and lines were familiar, though he didn’t remember the exact words. He suddenly felt as if he had found an answer. The reason behind the pull of the stadium. Taking his leave of K, P made his way back to his room. Once there, he dug out his old high school literature anthology and turned to a dogeared page. Dusk, by Saki. He read aloud to himself the lines :

Dusk, to his mind, was the hour of the defeated. Men and women, who had fought and lost, who hid their fallen fortunes and dead hopes as far as possible from the scrutiny of the curious, came forth in this hour of gloaming, when their shabby clothes and bowed shoulders and unhappy eyes might pass unnoticed, or, at any rate, unrecognized.

P.S: Apologies for the piece of fiction. I win back Rs.100 from Pota as a result.

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The Whale – I

Call me Ishmael ( Humour me). This is the sad tale of one man’s obsession. But of course you need some background.

This summer I’m working in my hometown. My workplace is very far off from where I live. Which means I needed a means of transport. I had four choices. Three of them real.

a) Go by auto and blow huge amounts of cash

b) Risk riding my 20 year old scooter (which I swear seems to squeak my name every time I brake) to work.

c) Public transport

d) Shadowfax

I chose public transport. Buses. Now travelling by bus is a unique experience, unlike any means of transport. The point of most other transport, is just that, transport. Get from point A to point B. Not so when you travel by bus. Joy , sorrow,competition, anger, lust, bravado, survival. It’s all visible. It’s human drama. That’s what it is.

Typical Windsurfer and typical bus surfer. Note similarity in technique

windsurfer

Bus surfer

But I digress. Let me get back to the story. Now my workplace being quite far off, the chances of finding one bus that took a route all the way from my home and dropped me right in front of my workplace were very slim. It so happened that on the first day of work I found one such bus. Bus No. 330B. I knew then and there , that this one was special. It had an aura , it almost glowed white.

I even got a seat. It almost floated all the way to it’s destination and even the conductor seemed uncharacteristically polite. It seemed too good to be true. It was. For never since that day have I caught that bus again. I enquired, only one bus plies that route. It became my maddening desire to travel by that four-wheeled leviathan. It became my white whale.

Only once since have I sighted her. Just as I got into another bus that would take me only half way. She sped past like white lightning.

Thar she blows.

Hometown Blues

Too much has changed. It’s been only a paltry three years since I left Bangalore for college . Sure people have been away from home for far longer, but that’s just it. Places change over lifetimes, over decades. Grandparents tell their grandchildren of how once upon a time there was a playground where now a skyscraper stands. This is too fast.

 

Oh-oh, I feel a stream-of-consciousness flashback welling up .

Racing down the stoned road infront of Vidhana Soudha on my Kinetic Honda, the wind puffing up my jacket. The 150 year old Stone building that housed my School. Peddlers pushing carts, calling out in the voice of a bygone era. The neighbourhood kaka angadi. Mewad Ice Cream. Torino. It’s almost eastalgie. Now I know how those East Germans feel. And yeah, where are the sparrows? Where are they??

 

The other day, as I stood in front of Vidhyarthi Bhavan, in Gandhi Bazaar was the first time this summer I felt like I was back in my hometown. As much as I hate to admit it (because I don’t live there), South Bangalore is the only part that still retains some of the the Bangalore-of-old feel. It wasn’t the only time though. Went to Daly Memorial Hall for a KQA quiz last sunday. Took me back years. God bless the KQA and all hail WingCo!

 

It takes me an hour and a half to get back home from work. Whatever happened to getting from anywhere to anywhere in Bangalore in just half an hour?

 

Today, I took an auto back home from work. The sky was a dark shade of grey. Inclement (Yes, yes, GRE word. Wordlist 25) weather threatened. The so-far-silent auto driver turned back and said he hadn’t seen clouds that grey for 20 years. 20 years ago I was one year old. Wonder what Bangalore was like then.

Cricket.

I used to be a huge cricket fan. The crazy types. The type with the complete center fresh card collection. The mandatory scrapbook of statistics. The room covered with posters, the BDM bat. The type who knew every player in the Holland team by batting average. But somehow down the years the passion fizzled out. The center fresh cards lay resting in some unknown corner of my attic. My BDM bat needs a new grip and the scrapbook has long gone yellow.

 

The upcoming World cup didn’t really light any sparks nor did the status message countdowns induce any anticipation. Times of India’s daily four pages of hype had no effect. That was all until I heard of a betting pool. A betting pool so secret and so terrible that only three people were allowed into it’s inner circle of treachery. The lure of great riches merely by predicting who would win a couple of silly cricket matches proved too great for me. I knew a bit about cricket, this should be easy I thought to myself.

 

Now there are many great things about being a wizard. The cool staff, the pointy hat, getting to be late whenever you want to… But the most advantageous: Conties. And using those wizardly conties I was able to gain entry into the Ring of evil ( Er… that’s the betting pool) . I began to brush up on my rusty knowledge to get back in touch. The old feelings and memories about the game came rushing back. Gully cricket where only one shot got you runs. Hand cricket, leg cricket, exam board cricket. Cricket in the driveway, cricket on the roof, cricket on the road, cricket on the footpath. Rubber ball cricket, tennis ball cricket, leather ball cricket, paper ball cricket. Bets with my grandfather ( they were more like excuses for him to give his grandson 10 bucks for absolutely no reason ). Crying after India lost in Calcutta all those years ago in that semi-final. Tendulkar hooking Caddick for a six ( Yes, that one wonly) . Yup, I was back.

 

And so, with the terms of the betting procedure it was time to place our first bets. Using the foresight of the ancients and guided by the will of Eru I was sure to win. With the huge amounts of money at stake, I had no choice but to win.

 

Betting on Pakistan to win against West Indies was always a bad idea, but I had insider information. Lost heavily there. Put me straight into the negatives. Then there were the upsets. The massacre of the favourites. So much death. What could men do against such reckless hate? Betting on the favourites put me back further. Friggin minnows, I knew I should have risked it all. Every instinct told me to bet on Ireland but it was not meant to be. So it came down to the final match. The match to end all matches. Lives were at stake. We placed our bets. Me on India, M and B ( The other two of the Ring of Evil ) on India and Sri Lanka. Sure, India lost to Bangladesh, but I think with my heart.

 

Now I’m back from the common room. A bankrupt Maiar. A wizard in debt. However will I raise the sum of Rs.5.5 to pay off the hounds? I guess the awakened passion will go back to sleep. Stupid game anyways. So boring.

 

P.S : For the first time ever, the secret records of the Ring of evil :

 

wc27.JPG

 

Sure B won the huge sum of Rs.9.5, but he lost his chappals in front of the common room. You win some , you lose some I guess.

Trainspotting

Choose Life. Choose….. Aw, forget it. Too goddamned cliched. Cutting to the chase, I undertook four train journeys in the last twelve days. The first of which was the ritual journey back home at the end of the semester. I’ve never been a fan of the day-journey-by-chair-car. Past experience has taught me that if you put even the best of friends in a confined area with little or no leg space and tell them to stay put for the better part of six hours, they may end up killing each other. I narrowly escaped the last time. The scars of war were still visible, but not enough to prevent me from trying again. I live on the edge you see. So , on the insistence of my good friend theJJ, who vouches for day-journeys-by-chair-car ( You learn to enjoy the simple things of life he says. Like the view of the Indian countryside he says. Like the gentle breeze through the open window that makes you half-close your eyes he says. I’m a sucker for simple things.) I agree to take the chair car back home.

    Now I’ve never been a lucky traveller. Never has the woman of my dreams serendipitously sat next to me on a train or bus or any other means of transport. So I think to meself, this could be it. I live in a state of eternal hope you see. So now there’s the three of us in the train. Me, theJJ, and Traums. I quickly proceed to alienate myself from those two, the seats were in threes, if I sat with those clowns there wouldn’t be no space for my dreamgirl. So I’m sitting in my chair, with crossed fingers when a mild mannered, slightly balding middle aged man asks me where seat no. 15 is. The ever helpful person that I am, I look around and discover to my horror that it’s the window seat next to me. Strike one. I’m down but not out. It’s the law of averages I rationalize. If that seat’s gone to baldy, then the other has to be for a Monica Belucci , or maybe an Estella Warren, or probably….the mild-mannered, middle aged woman who friggin ended up sitting next to me on the other side. Strike Two. I hate day-journeys-by-chair-car for a reason!

    Now I’m squeezed in between Baldy and the other one, with little or no leg space, and for some reason suicide keeps flashing through my mind. To make matters worse the three of us had the very bright idea of putting a night-out the previous night. The brilliant logic behind it being we’d never be able ot wake up in time for a morning train. For the uninitiated, it meant we stayed up all night with no sleep. So, as you would imagine, there I was, a sleep-deprived, suicidal, dream-shattered wizard with very little or no leg space on a day-journey-by-chair-car from Chennai to Bangalore. It is during such times that one experiences epiphanies. One achieves a mental clarity seldom achieved otherwise. NOT!!! I friggin fell asleep on Baldy’s shoulder! The horror! The horror! I wake up and to my horror, there I am , on his friggin shoulder. The mild-mannered idiot didn’t even shake me off. I denied it later, but there it was. The cold truth. The excruciating journey came to an end after what seemed an eternity. There and then I became Bheeshma. Taker of terrible vows. I vowed never ever to take the day-journey-by-chair-car from Chennai to Bangalore ever again. And the Earth shook and the the sky turned red and then everything was normal again.

The next two journeys were uneventful. The night trains to Hampi ( The immature kid in me just can’t stop laughing at that name) where I went for a short vacation with the folks were comfortable and I got enough sleep, on a full length bunk, with enough leg space, and no shoulders in sight. They happened to be infested with phirangs though.

Well, my past few train journeys have taught me many a thing. Trains usually smell like urine. Kill for the window seat. And never compromise on your leg-space. I write this entry just after the fourth train journey from Bangalore back to Chennai. And what can I say, I love the smell of Chennai Central in the morning.

 

A Wizard arrives precisely when he means to……

The Grey Pilgrim Speaks

I have thought long and hard about what material would go into my blog, if I ever started one.Would I write of art and music? But who am I to speak of art who has never held brush to canvas, and who can strum but a few chords on a six string. Of Cinema and literature? Well , a couple of friends and I did make a short movie for Hostel night during our freshman year but that hardly qualifies as cinema ( And in any case that’s a story for another day) .Of Science and Technology? Maybe, I am an engineering student after all. Of Philosophy and the Answers to Life, the Universe and Everything? Nah, know them already, and I’m not sharing. Of my own experiences and the world as I see it through my eyes? Well, yes. For that is all I know or can ever claim to truly know. Of incidents and experiences that deserve more than storage garbled over space and time in the recesses of my poor memory.

 

As time passes by, the details fade and only the abstractions remain. Years hence, I might remember that school life was fun, hostel life was great, but that is nowhere near enough. God is in the details.

 

How about memories like the one time in my freshman year when we were reading ( Or at-least trying to read) Hofstadter’s Godel Escher Bach and we chanced upon the precise mathematical statement of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem , and so flummoxed were we by the sheer incomprehendibility (if that’s even a word) of those combination of words that we proceeded to write them on sheets of paper and plastered them on our room doors much to the bewilderment of those who happened to walk by our wing. Or the time we heard, while passing by the bog, a senior singing “aaaaooo naaa, aaaaooo naa” early one morning while going about his daily chores . Or the now famous incident of Holi past, when a courageous band of ten fishermen proceeded to beat up and seriously injure almost half of the insti on Besant Nagar Beach . More than the incident itself I would never want to forget the most solemn , like he was a survivor of the Normandy beach landings or something, manner, in which my good friend theBlackMamba narrated the incident to me . And when on noticing that I was highly amused, said in the most grave of tones, worthy of a sage, “You weren’t there da”. (Churchill might have said “Never before were so many beaten up , by so few, in so short a time”) Or even the time when Jamuna won Schroeter ( yeah yeah…whatever) and came trooping into Saras, beating on their makeshift drums on Gymkhana day, but we were ready for them with our leftover stocks from that year’s Holi.

No, these moments are too precious to entrust to my feeble memory.

 

Why write a blog ? Why for all the world to see?
Well writers like to be read, I’m not claiming to be a ‘writer’, but I’d still like to be read.
There’s also the ulterior motive of wanting to get back into the habit of writing .

So, if you like my stuff, say hi, and leave a comment and if you didn’t, well you can sod off, but leave a comment anyways.

I am Olorin , wielder of the flame of Anor.

And this is where the Grey Pilgrim speaks.