Thursday, November 18, 2010

Theory of Relativity

The hands of his watch told him it was a few minutes past two. Isn’t she done with class yet? He looks out the window expectantly. No one. He turned back to his Physics teacher. “Einstein’s Theory of Relativity states....” He liked physics, a lot. But now, he could not concentrate. He was waiting for her. Every Tuesday and Friday during the second slot after lunch, she walked past his classroom on the way to the labs. Her half laugh, her eyes, her hair. That moment defined his entire day. 

Slowly the first of them trooped past, talking and laughing. Uniforms and faces filed past the window. She wasn’t there. He threw caution to the winds and turned around to look. Her friends walked past. She was nowhere to be seen. Did I miss her? He bit the end of his pen as he watched the stragglers hurry to catch up. He looked back at the teacher disappointed.

“...When you sit on a hot stove for two seconds, it feels like an hour. When you sit with a beautiful woman for an hour, it seems like two seconds...” Everyone laughed. He tugged at his tie and added one more doodle to his page. Suddenly his partner nudged him - a blur of white outside the window! He turned around again. False alarm, just the peon. Suddenly something hit him on his head. The duster. The class laughed again, now at him. “Hari, I’m standing here. Not outside the window. Pay attention in class.” 

 He ducked under the table to pick up the duster, dodging sly comments. He came back up to see her standing outside the window, looking at him, giggling. Their eyes met. She smiled and slowly glided away. He looked down at the duster, a smile playing on his lips. Einstein was wrong. That felt like eternity.  

A Certain Picture

In love, in life,
You paint a certain picture
Gilded frames and canvas
And rainbow hued brushstroke

A face, a smile,
You paint a certain picture
Her lips, her hair,
The gems in her eyes

You love, you pray
You worship that picture
You feast on its beauty
It feasts on your time

Incense and myrrh
Fruits and sweetmeats
You spare it no expense
The golden haired picture

And then it is over
The love, infatuation
You rant and you cry
What, when did it go wrong?

It lies in a corner
You kick it, you stab
And then while you cry
 You again ask why

It’s been a month and a half
You’ve almost forgotten
You abuse and stab, only
When drowned in the bottle

And then it’s forgotten
The pain and the hurt
The fury and angst
Lie, worn down by time

Then again it is time
To paint a certain picture
To caress the canvas
With rainbow hued strokes

And so it is taken
Battered and bruised
To the old storeroom
The graveyard of memory

Its canvas is torn,
The paint dulled and peeling.
The frame almost broken
Beset by decay and mould

Flimsy strands of memories
Hold it together
A spiders web of emotion
Fills in the gaps
And so it lies forlorn
Lonely, not alone
Amidst broken furniture
Hopes and dreams

Other pictures adorn the walls
Other pictures still to come
No graves, no headstones
In the graveyard of memory

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rocket Science

Discovery Channel once told me that the space vehicles of today are the greatest and most complex of human achievements. The biggest geeks, the best minds and the force of a thousand wills mesh together and the inferno that results is what gives birth to the modern space rocket. I am not a rocket scientist and I really don’t intend to spend my days computing the Orbital Velocity of the next payload. But sometimes, boys and immature young adult males like me are faced with a task more daunting and insurmountable than throwing a man into space. That, my friends and disciples, is the apparently simple task of wooing a girl. Many of us have been so lost in deep space when going through this phase that we have prayed fervently for a guide or a spiritual guru who will hold our hands guide us through the turbulent times. If nothing else, at least a manual or textbook that quenches our thirst for knowledge . Unfortunately the world has ignored this great need and a large amount of the collective knowledge in this field has been lost to the ravages of time. Whatever remains is held as a closely guarded secret by a few secret brotherhoods. There the knowledge is shared and whispered in shadowy gatherings into which entry is forbidden unless the dress code is strictly followed (black hood with matching cape). And so ordinary guys like me do not have the good fortune of walking into the local bookstore and going over to the ‘Lifestyle’ section to pick up ‘Wooing Girls – An Everyday Manual for an Everyday Guy’ or ‘Help Me!! I’m in Love! – 101 Tips to Get That Girl’.

Unfortunately, life is never in bulleted points or flow charts and pivot tables. It’s more akin to a collage comprising of a big stack of doctor’s prescriptions mashed together and then subjected to several trips though a shredder. Deciphering love from that mess is not child’s play. It requires patience and an eye for detail with copious amounts of dedication, expertise and creativity. Innovation can get brownie points too. In short you need to live the life of a rocket scientist, because the task that is to be accomplished is much more complex and intricate than rocket science.

The first stage is quite easy for most people. This is where you lay your foundation. There may be a bit of starting trouble; nothing an enterprising rocket scientist will find difficult though. You need to ensure you build a stable platform from which you can dream of launching the perfect rocket. Launch into the depths of space and explore the intricate secrets of the vast unknown and unexplored expanse of the universe(s?). This stage involves a lot of taking. So you talk and talk... and talk some more; text a little and chat quite a bit and of course, talk a wee bit more and blah and blah. During these conversations you get an idea of the necessary requirements to build the rocket. So try and listen to what is being said.

The first thing you figure out is the design for the rocket’s body. The basic design for every rocket is the same. All rockets have these essential requirements – a cone on top, a cylindrical, or semi cylindrical body and a nozzle at the bottom. The extra features, though essential, depend on each rocket. The secondary rockets that help in guidance, fins that keep you on course, the aerodynamic design and all of the other things that have to be there to keep a rocket in space and not go crashing into the sun and cause a supernova, which in all probability will wipe out all life in the near vicinity (let’s say a few hundred light years in all directions).

The rocket can be made of several materials. The substance that has to be used to make the rocket is also essential – different for different rockets. If you ask me, they have to be custom made for each. The information on the raw materials to be used can be got through those conversations I mentioned earlier. The ratio, in which the compositions are to be mixed, is totally up to you. Keep in mind that the material has to be tough enough to survive the intense stress and strain involved with takeoff and space travel. It has to bear the rigours of outer space – intense heat and cold, ultraviolet and radioactive radiations, meteorite collisions and god knows what else; alien attacks perhaps or even violent moral police fleets.

What is left to procure for building the rocket is the stuff that brings everything together - a huge amount of nuts and bolts and screws. They may come in different shapes and sizes and may seem inconsequential because of their size, but remember, ‘for want of a nail, the war was lost’. The entire superstructure may come crashing down because the nuts and bolts were not screwed in correctly. If you have a long space journey in mind, keep in mind that unless everything is gelling right and is in harmony (yeah, I believe in all of that crap), your rocket will come apart mid flight. There has to be some glue that holds everything together.

Then you figure out which propellants are to be used. Fuel is very important for a rocket launch. Not only does it get you off the ground, it also keeps you in the air (or space if you reach that far). The type of fuel depends on the rocket you are building. Some have solid state propellants, some liquid. Some have a slush of oxygen and hydrogen. It always depends on the make and size of the rocket and the distance you wish to travel. But be very careful. If you use the wrong kind of fuel, you could blow up mid air.

Now that you have everything you need, you start with the process of building your rocket. Please do not outsource it. Then whoever it is that you commission to build it will use your launch pad to launch your rocket and embark on an all expenses paid trip to Andromeda. Work diligently. Put your heart and soul into it. Your rocket and you should be like a samurai and his katana. The swordsman takes part in the forging process, so that when the sword is ready, his soul is intertwined with that of his sword. They go into battle as one entity. Such should be the building process for your rocket.

But it is when your rocket is fully built that you face the hardest part of the mission. The Launch. The day everyone is waiting for. Here, even the bravest and most valiant flounder. But if you are enterprising, determined and a true son of the soil, you will succeed. If all goes well, your rocket will launch without a hitch. There may be some problems with charting out a course in the beginning, but all of that can be sorted out. So, Bon Voyage!! Enjoy the journey! Don’t forget to send me postcards!!!

Not all of us are that lucky though. The production costs may go up suddenly, straining your finances, or you may not find the right components and the rocket will sit there half finished. Or, like it often happens to me, the launch may fail. Many get panicky and take-off too early, before the rocket is totally space worthy. Sometimes, it’s just a simple case of being dumb enough to use a cheap and faulty switch. All that work may go to waste if that all important red button doesn’t work. The fuel may refuse to ignite at that crucial moment or aliens may decide to attack Earth on that day. Then again there are instances where your rocket may end up being commandeered by pirates, or you suddenly find out on the day of the launch that the exact same model has already been launched in Ugandaland and the pilot is currently on a joyride around the Milky Way.
The worst is when you choke at the last moment. (What if this is not the right time? WAIT!!) And you wait for clear skies or the sun to come out or for that divine sign that gives you the all clear to launch. (Is that it? Yes it IS!! No its just Superman). I’m a bloody choker sometimes when it comes to the take-off. At times like that, I really begin to understand what Graeme Smith must feel after every major tournament. All that time and effort, simply gone to waste.

And there they stand, the ghosts of launches past. Some of them lie unfinished and deformed. Others stand proud, pointing skywards, knowing that all they are now is shell of memories filled with smoke, hot air and broken hopes and dreams. They stand in the rain of a million memories as rust and time take their toll. A thousand faces wipe away what’s left until all that remains is the painted picture of a painted face.

Well, kindergarten really got to me and so did that old Scottish king and the spider. Even the Agni failed to launch several times, right? So don’t be surprised if you see a picture of me on Facebook which shows me shaking hands with Orion.

Wait a minute. Damn I forgot to include an engine!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Conquest of the Tongue

The taste of the blackish gray barrel was revolting. Metal tastes different, so it must be the taste of gun oil. The black handle gleamed dully in the pale light. It was a newly oiled piece of hardware - that much his tongue told him. The first bead of sweat rolled down his temple and Adams apple convulsed with a vain effort to swallow. The heat was getting to him now. How he wished a few of the windows were open. And that damn piece of chicken. It was stuck between two teeth and stubbornly refused to let go. Why did you have to go to KFC for lunch? His tongue desperately tried to prise it out while his forehead sprouted more beads of sweat. His eyes though remained transfixed on the black gloved hand that held the gun. The fore finger wrapped firmly around the trigger, the thumb resting lightly on the safety.

The chicken resisted valiantly. Pulling back for a moment, his tongue made a cursory exploration of the barrel in his mouth. The hole in the middle reminded him of POLO. Another bead joined the first. The rough floor bit into his skin. His thighs and knees began to ache. A sudden wind came in from a forgotten window and assaulted his wet, naked skin. He shivered in the half dark as the safety turned off with a click. The noise of the street and the horns of the passing cars no longer reach his ears. Only the shadows of the bright headlights filtered in through the curtains. Again the vain attempt to gulp and a small retch of fear as the flickering shafts reflected off the blood red drop of paint that signalled his death. He stared at the drop, fascinated. The safety was off. There was a bullet in the chamber. There were ants on his legs. A finger was curled around the trigger. The safety was off. One bit him on his thigh. The agony! He wanted to itch. His fingered quivered. A drop of sweat dripped off the end of his nose. His tongue gave up on the annoying piece of chicken and went back barrel. Its pull was irresistible yet its presence revolting. Itch! His hand wouldn’t move. Violent tremors racked his body. His legs trembled with the effort, the pain and the bloody bites of the ants. Waves of frustration swept through him. There were more of them now. His hand remained as dead as stone. It refused to come to his succour. His eyes never left the rock hard curve of the gloved finger around the trigger. That hand never moved, never quivered. Waiting. He was waiting for a train. It would take him to a meeting he didn’t want to attend. That irritating girl next to him was chattering on the phone. For a moment he pictured her kneeling naked on the floor while he held a gun in her mouth.

His tongue went back to work. And the ants kept crawling. Suddenly he was overcome by a wave of relief. It was almost out! His tongue dug at it again and again and on the third try it was out! His hands twitched, a horn blared and he sighed. But his dusty walls never heard this cry of satisfaction and triumph. . The finger squeezed and a piece of metal, no bigger than his tooth tore through the back of his head. His story of conquest was lost in the battle cry of death; the whispers torn apart by the echoless bang and the chorus of tinkling glass. His body fell through the silence that followed and dared to interrupt it with a small thud as it hit the floor. He lay on his side, in a mocking imitation of a foetus. The black gloved hand still held the gun close to his mouth. To the dull and dirtied shaft of moonlight that peeked through the shattered window behind him, he looked like a babe that had fallen asleep, suckling on a small black toy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Move the F*****ck On!!!!

Today is the day i first met my phone. We were introduced by a very good friend of mine. We were a little slow to hit it off in the beginning mainly because I wanted my phone to be a little flashy and trendy. But my phone turned out to be a Samsung Guru. It was plain, black and perfectly at home hidden away in the darkest recesses of my pocket.

We got over these initial hiccoughs soon enough. The more I learnt about Guru, the more I liked it and soon we became great buddies. We were inseparable. Numerous have been the times we have lost each other amidst the thronging crowds of a mall or restaurant. But its always found its way back into my hands. Its been with me through thick and thin and together we've scraped through a lot of tight situations. Its been such a good friend that it has taken the fall for me many times (quite literally).

But lately I've been feeling a little out of touch with it. It seems we have been drifting apart for some time. Without us realising it, our priorities have changed and we are no longer on the same wavelength. I don't think I see a future in this relationship. I really think we need to Move On. This year has been great.. It really has, but I think I deserve something more. I would really like a better looking model - a bigger frontal display maybe and definitely slimmer. (I'm sure the ladies would prefer different features in their dream phones, this is purely from a guy perspective). I really hope this entire thing doesn't become a big drama.. We are sensible adults and I'm sure it will understand. I've moved on and I've already set my eyes on another model... What the f*****ck more does it expect? Does it expect me to f*****cking beg for forgiveness? Did you really expect it to last for more than a year? What era do you live in? Move On!! Damn It! Move the F*****ck On!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Damselflies in the wind

My dad grew up in a village called Kainakery in Kerala. Its in the coastal district of Alappuzha and is situated on the banks of the Pamba river. The back waters of Kerala is spoken off as a must see tourist destination. My dad was born there and my grandparents still live there. We used to visit them every year and spend at least a week there before we proceeded east to the hills where my mom had her house.
Its a small house, right on the bank of the river. A small lane separates the river from the mass of branches that serves as a compound wall. What an urban concept - a compound wall. Its just a line of sticks of a certain plant that are thrust into the ground. Give it a few months and you get a sturdy green fence. I forgot the name of the plant though grandpa told us about it. What I do remember is that the fence was the best place to catch damselflies.

Until a few years back, the only way to get there was by boat. We get down at the Alappuzha railway station and take a taxi to the main jetty. Then we take a boat from there to the Kainakary Panchayat jetty. If I remember correctly, the tickets cost Rs 6 each. Its a big boat and the pilot sits in a small cabin on top. I used to love those trips. My sister and I used to sit right in front and pretend we were the pilots. My parents used to have a hard time keeping us in our seats and out of the water while keeping an eye on the luggage at the same time. Grandpa would always be there on the jetty, waiting to welcome us.

More often than not my uncles used to join us and it seemed the tiny house would burst at the seams with the number of people trampling about inside. All of us kids would used to get together and tramp off to the river and grandpa used to accompany us to make sure we never jumped in. Every house situated on the bank has individual access to the river by a set of stone steps that lead down into the river. Since my grandparents never used it.. It lay crumbling and the stones were covered with algae, making them very slippery.

Please appacha, I'm just wetting my legs. I wont jump in.
No! The rocks are slippery and you'll fall in!
, can I wet my legs too? Appu is doing it. I want to stand in the water too!!!

Boy, did my grandpa have a tough time keeping us out of trouble. We were noisy, mischievous and found the most devious of ways to irritate the adults. But every time it was time to leave, he used to fight hard to keep his tears to himself. Grandma always cried when she kissed us goodbye, but not him. He would stay aloof the whole time we packed and then accompany as to the jetty and wait till we were safely onto the boat and wait there till the boat was out of sight.

Kainakary has changed a lot the last few years. Most of the first families that set up the village by battling the very river that is their life blood have moved on. Most of the houses, like our ancestral home, lie deserted and lifeless. (The ancestral home is where my grandpa grew up) The residents have either died out and their children, like my father, had migrated elsewhere, or they have moved to towns like Changenachery and Alleppuzha. The houses stand like empty shells reluctant to let go of their lost splendour or has been turned into tourist resorts by enterprising locals and large hospitality chains, their walls now adorned with cheap imitations of old artifacts, all to give an 'authentic' feel of course.

My father used to tell me stories of his childhood, of the colourful characters who made up the core of village life. They have all but disappeared now, those that are still alive sit around the small tea stalls recounting stories that no one else wants to know about. (Except people like my dad). My dad told me once that they never used to carry water bottles to school.... who would be stupid enough to do that? The school was right on the bank of the river.. (Right across from our home by the way). Now, the first thing we do when we reach Alleppuzha is buy two crates of Bislery drinking water. Today, you are more likely to see a bakpacker from Europe on the banks of the Pampa than a fisherman readying his nets. Of course, the only people who actually take to fishing in the river are old fishermen who know no other way to make a living or fraud mallus like me and my cousins who play-act with a hook tied to a dried stick.

When dad is feeling nostalgic or right after his best friend Sunny Kappankal or grandpa calls up to tell him about the demise of another one of Kainakary's residents, he tells me about the giant cat that used to live in the loft above the house, about his grandfather and his house, of the intense political debates that took place in the comfy environs of the local tea shop, about the magician priest who blessed my great grandfather's fields to get rid of vermin and of late night fishing trips on a borrowed vallam with his best friends for company. He never misses the Nehru Trophy Boat Race on TV. He sits down in front of the TV on the second Saturday of every August and relives his college days when he himself was the captain of a boat that took part in the minor races (without his parents knowledge of course). His excitement is infectious, like a boy with his favourite toy. He went to Alleppuzha last year to watch the races and for the next two months the music system in our car played a CD of vallam paattukal which he had brought back with him.

Its been a long time
since I've seen a damselfly. Every time I see one though or at least think of one, I remember the times I used to run across the mittam with my sister, chasing damselflies in the wind.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Love at First Sight

She is so beautiful!! Be it sun or rain, she has a beauty of her own. She's always got this alluring mystery about her and I guess that's what attracted me to her first. Our meetings were few and far between - she didn't mind , she's got too many admirers for her to miss me. It was the same place, every year. Whenever I went with my family to the beaches of Alappuzha, she was there, waiting. I don't know how or why, but the sense of mystery was always there.

To get over the painful months of separation, I hooked myself to her shows on TV. Every day I used to get back home and after homework and after my usual dose of Swat Cats and the Centurions, I used to sit down to indulge myself; and boy was she beautiful. I felt very jealous though. she was always off dancing and flirting with those bloody phirangs. I felt like pummeling them. But what could I do; I was sitting in a small house in Bangalore while they, oblivious to the world, were serenading each other in Hawaii and New Zealand.

That didn't stop me. I had this foolish commitment to her and I was determined to hunt her down. What else do you expect, I was a naive 13 year old brought up on a healthy dose of mushy Mallu movies and happily ever afters. I decided to be a Marine Biologist. I searched for courses and universities to study in and even subscribed to the Marine Bio newsletter from Marine Bio. I prepared for a life dedicated to her and our meetings in the sly continued. We spent an extended weekend together at Goa when I went there with family and I must say, I have never seen her more beautiful. My most intimate memory of her is the morning we spent together at Waga beach. The waters were so serene and I can never forget the emotions i felt as i spent 4 hours with her. That is a day I will never forget.

Unfortunately, as with most romantic relationships in India, my family opposed our relationship. It was actually less of an opposition and more of a systematic brainwashing. I dont blame them though, they just did what they felt was best for my future. They never said an outright no. My relatives took turns at pointing out the hardships I would have to face in a life with her. My mom kept hinting at how she would love it if I settled down with someone a little more traditional and conservative. My dad complained about how she seemed to be pulling me away from my other near and dear ones. They didn't actually have to try very hard or for very long. I knew that they were right; she was very reluctant to settle down in India, and life would indeed have been very tough. To my mind, at that age, that was enough. I was just a confused adolescent who had no idea where he wanted to take his life.

I broke up with her soon after. Like I said before, she didn't care at all. She has far too many admirers to miss one scrawny 16 year old. I didn't feel all that bad either. I told myself that it was just an infatuation and I still believe it was one. There were no emotional scars and I still don't feel bad about it. It just faded away, just like my boyhood craze for Hotwheels cars. I do meet her once in a while though. She still welcomes me with open arms whenever I go to her. She stays just 20 minutezs away from college. We go there once in a while and she is always there, just as beautiful as ever.

( This a post about a phase in my life when my ambition was to become a Marine Biologist. I used to love the oceans and I still do, though it has mellowed down a bit. That is one of the reasons why I named my blog Debris in the Sea. Its so vast and inexplored that it strangely reminds me of life. There is a lot of stuff u find in it - driftwood and lots of junk. Once in a while though you come across a shiny shell or a piece of sea glass or if you are really lucky a spanish doubloon!! This blog is a collection of my treasures from the sea. My bits of sea glass.)


I wanted to name my blog Nemo.. u know... after the nameless captain of the Nautilus. I thought it added a sense of mystery to it. Or maybe I just liked the guy,or rather the idea that was the man ... Nemo. The fearless wanderer of the seas; captain of a crew of the hardiest seamen in the world - men of different nations, brought together under the banner of the Nautilus. He appealed to me - his sense of loss and his thirst for revenge; his rage, courage, compassion and honour. To me he's still the perfect anti-hero. I loved him when I first read the book and I still do.

The romantic in me just cant let of him. I used to dream of a life like his or like Tarzan's (one of my other childhood heroes). They are out of societies grasp yet capture its imagination. They manifest its deepest fears and yet are its greatest heroes.

Of course these aren't the main reasons why I like Nemo. I like Nemo because, when i was a kid he helped me dream and now, when I have forgotten how to do that, he reminds me of those days when I believed that even I could one day be a Nemo myself. Well who says I can't?... I may very well be the next Tarzan..... no..... Batman seems cooler. I think I'll be Batman!