Livinghigh: January 2004
Saturday, January 31, 2004
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The One about 'the write kind of man'

This is turning out to be like the labeling of 'Friends' episodes - you know, where they say "The One where Rachel gets a boob job done" or "The one where Joey and Phoebe hook up".... yeah, yeah... dream on for each of those things... anyway, this is the one about the write kind of man. This is actually something i'd written a loooooong time back, when I was in St Xaviers College, in good ole Cal. I suppose you could also call this entry "Another dose of corn" - slightly long though, so be patient...

I'm supposed to tell a story. They say that it'll make a writer of me. I'm supposed to spin a yarn out of thin air. They say that even air is composed of myriads of invisible jewels that glitter in your palm once you catch hold of them. I'm supposed to sit back, and think - about my life, and what it has meant to me. Think - about my family and their experiences, and how it has changed them. For people change - and I'm supposed to be the one to capture it all down for posterity.

Posterity can wait, though. The present occupies me for now - as it well should. What can you or I or anybody else for that matter say about this world? That it has problems, that it is flawed, - that in spite of all the chinks within, any of us would give anything to hold on to just a few extra moments of it when our time is done? Somebody once wrote, there are no new things to write about - everything's already laid down in black, white and the underlying shades of grey... What's left is for us writers to supply the patches of colour. It's the same old description of a weaver and his contribution to a piece of tapestry - if I haven't used the expression at least a million times, I've thought about it in my head ten million times! But it's the old tale that keeps on reinventing itself for me - and keeps on achieving different shades of relevance for me. Something like that old fairy tale that my grandmother whispered in the dead of night to my mother, and which my mother repeated to me when the sun closed shop... the chain probably goes back for generations, and each of those conduits experienced a slightly different if equally enchanting thrill to it... I can hardly wait to assume my own position in the chain sometime in the future.

They say that everyone has at least one novel within him. It could be a story of greed or unassuming innocence. Wars that might have been waged and battles that might have been lost. Victories that might have been won and perhaps, lives that had been saved. Loves that transcend time, tragedies that remain family heirlooms. Idealist that I am, I'd like to believe that each man has a hero lurking within him, waiting to be discovered. Perhaps that hero surfaces only once in a lifetime, during some horrendous calamity, and then slinks away - perhaps, the hero manifests itself in simple daily things like being with your son when he needs a father more than ever, or helping that old lady across the street - but its very existence means that my faith is not in vain. Perhaps, there have been cases where we have not been able to galvanize that hero adequately or in due time, but then, that's a common enough case as well. This is to the heroes then, - those that have manifested and those that remain waiting till the next opportunity comes wafting by. This is to the lovers then - without whom the world would simply cease to exist. When you come to think about it, the greatest stories of all time are those not on extraordinary feats, but the simple facets of life - the simple deeds of courage, the simple acts that carry you onwards in love. These are the stories hidden away within each person - waiting to be told by one who can see through you...

This burning desire within me to tell a story is probably not something new - it's probably always been there. I say 'probably' because it was my delay in noticing this facet of my life. But then, that's no criminal charge really - as human beings, we grow every day, learning so many new things - chiefly about ourselves. You're not meant to wake up one fine day and realize that you're the twice-removed descendant of Houdini, or that you're essentially a Nobel laureate. You walk the walk and talk the talk, and gradually, if you're lucky, you come one day to chance upon a hidden part of you, smile and embrace it. I suppose that sounds utterly simplistic, but then I dare say that I think even the Sensei will agree with me on this one - we have a tendency these days to harp and complicate the simple things in life. Live And Let Live need not be this gigantic philosophy on World Conservationism after all.

As for my desire to be a writer, I can ascribe it to my ego - as any egotistical lion like myself would. (You see, we fully acknowledge our faults - but instead of doing anything constructive about them, we flaunt and explain away our deficiencies - love me or leave me, that's the way I am, so accept me!) I have this urge to see my name up there - somewhere - and hear people praise my work. Does that sound pretty ordinary? In reply, I can only point towards the earlier paragraph where I harped on simplicity - I'm being honest here, and honesty and grandiosity rarely match together. I feel I have this great cauldron of feelings and emotions to share with you people out there, some of you whom I haven't even met before. I can't justify to you my own swollen head - and yet, I feel that what I have to share with you is important - that it matters. It's nothing earth-shattering - it tells you about my highs and my lows, my desires and my debacles, my hopes and my failures. I like to think of myself as an open book - even though that's not strictly true.

I'm supposed to talk to you. I'm supposed to weave stories for you that will mystify and enthrall you. Forget about building fairy-tale castles in the air with fairy-tale characters inhabiting it. I'm talking to you about real people who've fallen down the sidewalk one day, and sprinted on Cloud Number Nine the next. It's all part and parcel of the same package. There's simply no need for inventing strange little men and women with their strange little lives - all the inspiration any writer needs is lying right in front of him - within him - it's called Soul.

Something about this 'living high' thing

There is a special girl in my life. I can’t rightfully say that she was the first special girl in my life; then the real title-holder would come here to Chennai all the way from her B-school in Jamshedpur with the express purpose of castrating me. So I will let sleeping dogs and reclining knives lie as they are, and merely state that this girl I met in Chennai has come to mean a lot to me.

I’m not sure where this is going to take me. We are friends – excellent friends. I talk to her and listen to her and nod at her words. I smile at her words and scoff at them too and also take her seriously. I hate it when I know she’s suffering, and I try to comfort her. As huge as an egoist as I am, you can imagine with what great difficulty it is that I can quell the intense desire to respond to her words and narrate an incident from my life and hence turn the story into a story about me instead of her… but in spite of my monstrous ego (very rightly noted by that bald man whom I fantasize about pushing down the stairs nightly) I actually manage to shut my stupid mouth at times and not turn her woes into a tale of woes. I think that’s what friendship is about – listening, and empathizing. Sharing and talking… Those are some of the things my closest friends have taught me – from Sensei in Calcutta to that castrating girl in Jamshedpur, to Fernandes (who insists by the way that she's referred to hereafter by her very sexy name of Sharon Sensuality) and Nelly, my legal parents in Chennai – and these are some of the things I hope will stand me in good stead once I leave Chennai too.

I think in order to live high, every guy needs a special girl in his life – or guy, depending on your orientation. I think that you need to be with that special girl, and sit with her and listen to her laugh and talk, and wonder where all this is going to lead. You might want to weave dreams in the air, and you might be able to see those very dreams crumble right there in front of you not so very later… but those dreams are important. I think you need to sneak up with her and watch the stars on a clear night and talk silly, inconsequential things like rock concerts… and important things about missing your parents… and neutral things too like the chicken kadai you ate for lunch. You need to share ice cream with that special girl and you need to feel warm. You need to feel high.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about being in love – I’ll tell you how to cross that bridge once I get there myself. I’m just telling you to take the plunge and let yourself go. Do make sure to carry your parachute with you.

Thursday, January 29, 2004
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The One with the discourse on Cutural Conjunctivitis

I wrote this one some two months back, as the middle piece in the Nov 3 issue of The Word - thats our in house college newspaper. Its about my roomies... I think its funny... kind of goes in with the art of living high... so here it is:

Good music and a dinner comprising entirely of dissolved java beans will induce anybody to sharpen his grey cells and embark on a Voyage of Truth. For those amongst you hopelessly uninitiated in journalist-speak, I mean of course the inconsequent postprandial tittle-tattle in a college hostel that passes for Great Political Discourse.

We were a diverse enough group. There was the Tam-bram Extraordinaire with holy white ash on his forehead, who treads the Rightist Path (every pun intended), unable to abide anyone with two Left feet. The Surd with the habitual twang in his dialect was on the sidelines, as was our friend Koirala from Nepal, mighty amused at the jungle we call home. Bringing up the rear was my Roomie, a Bangalorean with a tongue glib enough to choke you to death and then make you thank him for it, and of course, me, the Fanciful Columnist from Calcutta.

There was even a news report on the Discourse, complete with an opening sentence that promised the reader crème roulette, delivering instead stale bread:

‘On Sunday night, the Tam-bram declared that artists who parade their political connections on-stage are not to be respected. (Preferably, in bold.)

Koirala giggled in response, while the Surd started dancing the bhangra to show his solidarity.

However, Tam-bram’s allegations were met with an inspiring argument from the couch where Roomie lay sprawled, cuddling his cell phone. “I’d like to know how you can say something like that!” he charged, “Is it a crime to voice an opinion?”
Roomie then quoted paragraphs from Section 76,568 of the Incorrigible Penal Code to establish that Tam-bram could be arrested under Preventive Detention, for “propagating immoral thoughts” to helpless room-mates.

Koirala giggled in response, while the Surd stroked his hair, wondering what length of cloth he should buy for his turban.

The sight of the Surd and his hair infuriated Tam-bram, and he decried the mischievous moves of people with Left feet who were out to “destroy the nation” and decimate the dance-floors. It was clear from the red haze in his eyes that he had either popped a blood vessel, or been infected with conjunctivitis from the Surd.

Koirala giggled in response, while the Surd looked shamefaced all of a sudden.

A debate on the propagation of culture and conjunctivitis was forestalled, however, by the insistent ring from Roomie’s cuddly cell phone. Roomie then gave an apologetic grin and ran away, whispering code language into his phone.

Koirala giggled in response, but the Surd was still shamefaced about the status of his conjunctivitis. Tam-bram declined to comment, as he was busy scratching his eyes furiously.’

The moral of the story is to not even try looking for one – you could just leave that to people like us, who indulge in Political Discourse.

A dose of corn

It's Thursday now, though I guess because of the fact that blogger is an American company, the log shows 'Wednesday 28th' on this account too. Can't be helped. I'm not in any kind of a crazy mood now... sort of mellow, sort of quiet... i guess that happens to me too, sometimes. Actually, most of the time. I'm not really any kind of a great Living Animal, full of zest and gung-ho, looking forward to the next bout of excess... not an escapist either. Sensei, back in Calcutta (that's one of my friends called Bivas) attributes a lot of balance to my character because of my quieter moments... and sometimes it feels good to take all the credit for being a good liver.

I live well, I tell myself. I live well.

I think that one of the reasons I really appreciate my time spent in Chennai is because it has given me such a fantastic opportunity to branch out. In spite of the boiling heat and the never-appearing bus and the ass hole auto drivers and all the other reasons why so many of my friends here hate the city - it seems strangely out of character to utter a mushy remark like 'I love it all... because it gave me an opportunity to meet all these different, wonderul people!' That sounds like a cue for a 'Chickensoup for the soul' GROUPHUG (Copyright), says my sarcastic self, but it's quite true really.

I love all of this because of the intense freedom it has afforded me - the will and the way that I have lived my life for the past six months now. Sips of Appy, bites of home-cooked Maggi, homemade ice cream sundaes up on the ninth floor, experiments with Weikfield jelly, chicken biryani at Madras Kitchen, latenight movies at Sathyam, cramped auto rides with upto 6 people, dancing crazily on spiked cold drinks, movie shows on my comp till 2 am... the list simply goes on. I suppose I could give it a kind of name... something like the Chennai Experience, or something corny like that. I guess that would go very well, with the weird corny mood I'm in right now.

Don't knock the importance of corn, though. Kellogs made a fortune out of it.

Sense and silliness

It's amazing how such silly stuff like coming third in a current affairs quiz can get you so amazingly high - I suppose the fact that we came consistently last in the preceding quizzes had something to do with it. So, there we were - a group of us, chanting as we climbed back up the stairs to the computer labs, faces red with delight, smiling teeth and all... The description sounds very much like all those sappy Enid Blyton novels that I used to read when I was younger, and so I shall quit while I am still ahead. Let it suffice that you know how thrilled I was at the outcome of the mediocre quiz... Let it suffice to say that I was high, and Nelly could level no accusations of substance abuse at me. ;-)

I suppose I had better explain that part, at any rate, if I don't want the people who read this to think I'm a junkie. The fact is that I'm a life saver... my mother's old dreams of her son becoming a doctor have come true at last - even though I am bereft of any degree. The fact is that when people in my flat have a cold or a cough or a head ache or a fever or a body ache or in need of a witty remark or two, they come knocking on my door. I have the answers to them all - from cough syrup to stale internet humour. All of which prompt those heinous charges of drug peddling against me by a colleague possessing a lesser amount of charm, namely, Nelly.

Which reminds me, last night, Fernandes and I were hugely relieved to find out that both of us were your friendly neighbourhood narcissists. (But somehow, I think you'd have realized that even without me spelling it all out for you in big black letters.)

So, welcome to the rabbit hole. Fernandes, who's name is really Sharon, can be a neo Alice, if you like, and I think I'm the Cheshire Cat (it's the silly grin). Nelly is... Well... Nelly is a brand new character whom Lewis Carroll never had the imagination to conjure up - all of which make our real life rabbit hole much more splendid than that sorry montrosity of a Wonderland where mushrooms jostle for space with fat women wearing crowns with emblazoned hearts.

Don't come to my blog if you're looking for sense... I teach you to live right, and what's sense got to do with that?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Livinghigh was here at 3:53 PM / (0) Comments

Welcome to the rabbit hole.

There's a special attraction to doing the kind of thing you're told not to. That's like a universal truth. Chatting in the computer lab when the fat/black man is not watching. Surfing porn on the net just before leaving for college, so that when you finally do arrive, your friends marvel at the goofy grin on your face. Sitting on somebody else's computer chair in the lab when he/she's not there and writing silly messages on the desktop. That's fun - in a curious, demented, whacko-jacko kind of way.

Or maybe being my room mate. How do I describe him to you? Well, I just did - curious, demented, whack-jacko kind of a guy. I think the only adjective I forgot to add was 'certifiable'. We have a kind of a war of words going on, as you might have guessed by now. I like to call him names, and he likes to hide my prescription pills. We like to call it a 'made-for-each-other' relationship.

I just went out and had a cuppa with my roomie - by the way, he's called Nelson - (Nelly, beg for the nice bloggers! Good boy, nelson... here, have a cookie!) - and he's my libido's conscience-keeper. Yes, we do funny things - especially when I'm not drugged. One of the funniest things we do is sit around in the ice cream parlour of our flat and talk about flagging love-lives and non-existent ones too. Sometimes, the teeny bopper called Fernandes joins us, and sometimes she has an ice cream too. Yes, we do funny things. Maybe we're funny people.

I like to think we're all 'living high'. I like to think we did an internship with the Buddha before joining ACJ and are experts on the Middle Path. I like to think Rhea Pillai was especially sweet on me and I know the Art of Living to a tee. I like to think I'm normal.

I like to think Nelly's normal too.