Sunday, August 27, 2006

Varanasi- A Collection of Random Thoughts

This is my 50th post. I wanted to write about Varanasi because this is where my blog was born, this is where I discovered myself.

My grandfather tells me of the age when three rupees was all it took to buy a month’s food. When I go home during vacations, I tell him people here need just a few more. Varanasi, in many ways, reminds me of my grandmother’s tales of villages and rivers, of subsistence and happiness, and of a life of undiluted peace and calm.

When the Sensex yo-yos, so does the pulse of the entire nation. Men are accustomed to having their heart, instead of food, in their mouth. Varanasi, though, remains calm. Men still squat on the road with their kulhar of tea and two samosas. FIIs can sell out all they want to, the Federal Bank can double its rates, Earth may be stripped from the list of planets, the Al-Qaeda may blow the country away if they like, Varanasi may be declared part of Pakistan- nothing will perturb the devotees of Baba Vishwanath who bathe in Ganga Mayya. (People do a lot more than just bathe in it. But the holy river’s supposed to give you relief from all kinds of pressure.)

Varanasi is a misfit in the popular image of North India- business-minded, profit oriented, selfish. While people come here to soak up some ancient mysticism, they also learn to love the city for the way it is- dirty, congested, pot-holed; all-in-all, an urban nightmare. They say the spiritual enlightenment one obtains here overrides petty concerns like lashing cow-tails, traffic, floods, etc. I haven’t reached that stage yet. I still positively detest Varanasi for its refusal to change- for its people’s reluctance to change- fearing possibly that the new wave will undermine their existence. They’re scared of the day when priests will preach online, when Ustad’s shehnaai will make way for Metallica, when sub-ways will replace samosas, and when Café Coffee Day will overtake chai-stalls.

The tourism department doesn’t mind this. Why should they spend to clean the shit foreigners love to smell? I’ll tell them why. I’ve met a number of people who’ve toured Varanasi once. They said they’ll never go there again. Cluttered dwellings, dusty roads, and crowded marketplaces look ‘natural’ and ‘real’ on TV. But when you’ve to eat a samosa at the pavement of that very market, the reality hits you. The revenues from tourism might be enough for the state to keep bulldozers away. Makeovers cost a neat packet, and UP isn’t the richest or the most thinly populated state in the country. Devotees will visit the temple even if they have to tunnel through mountains of dung and filth. But I am not a devotee. I am a resident of this unholy city, and I don’t want to tunnel through mountains to get to a vegetarian restaurant or to buy a bloody magazine.

There’s something here that strikes you at once as charming and naïve. Vendors don’t mind if you say you’re broke and will pay them later. It might be for a cup of tea; it might be for an entire meal. I am not talking about big restaurants, where professional etiquette goes hand-in-hand with customer mistrust. I am referring to the petty tea stalls for whose owners the money from a single meal goes a long way. Call this blind trust, call it stupidity, call it what you like. But it does shatter the myth that man has become a profit-making machine. If ever a motion is initiated to revamp the city, I’ll be its most vociferous supporter. But some things are better left alone.

Friday, August 25, 2006


We often call the world a small place. I disagree. The world is huge and has invisible jets that douse flames before they even cast a shadow on my life. For instance, just a few miles from here, electrified houses live in darkness for 14 hours a day, while I crib for not having geysers in the bathroom.

Barely 6 months ago, terrorist groups detonated two powerful bombs in Varanasi, one of them hardly a kilometre away from me. 30 people were killed. Here’s what I did- For a few fleeting moments, I was shocked at the loss of life. As I returned to the university, I shuddered to think of the fate of survivors and their kin. I also said a silent prayer- something I do when chapters outnumber minutes before exams (a rare occurrence with the ‘sincere’ Akshay).

An hour later, I was listening to Pink Floyd and mocking the terrorists for wasting their ammunition on Varanasi. This shows not only that I’m pretty insensitive, but also that no distance is too small and no disaster too close. You’re either at ground zero or far away from it. If events in my city can’t shake a hair, what about the violence in Lebanon and Sri Lanka? Global conflicts start and end with newspaper articles, which eventually end up wiping dusty chairs or wet bike seats.

I don’t want to bring you round to my point of view. In fact, I’m not very clear about it myself. Still, this came to me as a passing thought, and scribbling down thoughts is the only way out for premature Alzheimer’s patients like me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


It’s interesting to compare a writer’s block with a nose block. While the latter implies your nose is full, the former relates to vacuum. While one is cured by an inhaler, the other wants an outlet. But why am I writing this? Am I too in this lean patch? While my blog seems to be rollicking along (41 posts, as Anand Kashyap thoughtfully counted), I haven’t written an article for months. This literary inactivity is more like the nose block. Important, boring issues like metallurgy, CAT, placements, etc. occupy more headspace than I want them to. Peer pressure doesn’t help either. When I sit down determined to write something, I hear people talking about the composition of pig iron, or the merits of Object Oriented Programming, and crash goes my plan of a quiet afternoon with my thoughts and keyboard. The cruel realization that writing is not a ‘useful’ activity dawns on me. I once stopped to list the campus-defined must dos that I haven’t done, including not watching must-watch movies, not playing must-play games, and not reading must-read books. I fell short of fingers and toes.

It’s quite tough, the kind of stuff college life expects you to do.
• You’re supposed to not study, and even if you do, it should be on the sly.
• If caught studying a month before the exam, mix disinfectant in the Ganges and take a dip.
• If caught studying 2 months before, cut out the disinfectant.

If you are a CAT aspirant -or are desperate to be a cross between Siddhartha Basu and Narayana Murthy- you are expected to read newspaper editorials, know what GDP means, debate about India and China, know why Israel is pounding Lebanon, etc. Even reading novels becomes a Reading Comprehension exercise. In many cases, novels are read to justify Reading as a hobby in CVs. This reduction of leisure to mere drill is a signature of campus life.

It is 11pm right now. My friend will bang my door any time for our midnight cuppa. It’s a cruel reminder again, that I’ve wasted enough time on this non-profit venture. It’s time to write a Mock CAT- “The following pie chart shows the region wise distribution of sales of Mehta and Mehta Textile mills. The table shows…”- Sigh.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Of Hinduism and holidays

I heard from various sources that Hindus worship 33 crore gods. That is 33,00,00,000.
Allowing for avatars and my ignorance, the number of mutually exclusive gods will be not less than, say, 15 crore. If this is true, it is very likely that every day of the year corresponds to a god's birthday. This allows, on an average, 4.1 lakh gods to born each day, which is a fair deal. And given that Indians celebrate gods' birthdays by not going to work, every day of the year should be a holiday!

Comrades, ransack ancient literature, plunder the Internet, make the database that will liberate us for life.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


I know you art lovers detest this patchy piece of art, but sorry, this is the best I could do.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Muckshay's Independence Day PJ

Disclaimer: Patriots, please don't overwork your heads. This is just a joke. If you have a problem, don't comment, abuse me at

Q.What do you call artistes like Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Christina Aguilera, who are free from all inhibitions?

Scroll Down

A. Swatantra Divas

Parliamentary Bloodbath

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Screw-Ups- IV: Haraami by Stale Ham

Disclaimer: Eddie Vedder is deeply attached to this song, and I respect his emotions. This poem is not written to mock Jeremy or his tragic end.

At work, peeling stickers,
Off every box, sits in the shop,
Selling yellow buns, Charms and Ganesh Bidi,
The bread lay, in pools of green below,
The Baddie didn't give attention O,
To the fact that the expiry date
Was last January, the dickhead sold those goods now,
Haraami sells his old stuff today.

Shirley was a member, picked stuff for her boy,
Beamed at saving a little buck,
But she unleashed the poison,
Stained his teeth and got a swelling in his chest
When he ate nuggets.
His school had a surprise test,
His gut was burning,
Eyes were swollen,
Just dropped away,
Dropped like an injured bird.

Laddie didn't give attention,
To the fact the stuff smelled stale,
Poor Kennedy, the brightest, ruined his year now,
Haraami sells his old stuff today.

Fry the tid-bits,
Fry to clean things,
From the bad food.

Haraami sells his old stuff today.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


This is not funny.

Drop Your Coat O doctor,
We've got some work for you,
The king's gown needs a thousand stitches
Two to be made by you.

Leave your sword O soldier,
You've got a job to do,
The king has to butcher a thousand goats,
Two to be done by you.

Throw your brush O painter,
There's a lot of work to do,
The king's palace needs a thousand coats,
Two to be done you.

Don't go, son, to see the king,
He'll give you things to do,
Things that'll use all your skills,
But never give you your due.

Sorry Mama have to drop my coat,
Throw my brush and Leave my sword,
The king has pledged a thousand coins,
A string of pearls, a pot of gold.

The day belongs to the robot doctor,
Artists're an endangered lot,
Atom bombs used to pound foes,
We're down praying on our knees.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pharmula One

This is my longest poem thus far. You could call it a ballad; only, don't expect to get enlightened at the end. You're no Buddha and I'm no tree.Try to laugh; if you can't, abuse me and shut the page.

When Laloo became the PM of India
He went on a tour with his son Scindia
They went to Malaysia in the scorching sun
And were taken to see Formula One.

It was a tight and gripping race
Awe was writ large on his face
Then at last, at the final corner,
Leading the pack, was Michael Schumacher.

Laloo said "Arre Wah, Michael winned"
"Yes, he winned", repeated Scind,
Bernie said "Michael as usual,
'Tis always Michael, even without fuel"

"Ijitso?" he asked enquiringly,
"Everytime Michael wins only?"
"That's the power of Schumacher,
Makes him win year after year."

Laloo had a great idea,
Returning to Bihar, he called the media,
"Today I have made great desisan,
From next year we will have Pharmula One"

The announcement delighted Karthikeyan,
Chandok rocketed to 7th heaven,
Practice wheels scorched the track,
Novices hit that extra lap.

But the opposition hit a screeching brake,
"You can't dump the poor for fun's sake"
"Don't worry", said Laloo, "I thought it all out"
"It will not be an unfair bout"

Then one night he called the press
"This will be the racing dress"
He held aloft a milk white dhoti,
And a size number 8 Kolhapuri.

And that was not all for the gaping sribes,
Half the drivers were from local tribes,
But the biggest winner was the local cobbler
Because Laloo just wanted a shoemaker.

After the race, no bottles of bubbly,
Only a cabaret from Pados Ki Babli
And when he was asked about the price of cars,
He said "Huh! This is a race of carts"