Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The bittersweet lingering of filter coffee in my tongue
and the incessant noises of a hot humid Indian city
are all I remember of our first meeting-
the other memories washed away
by the dirt and grime
of daily life.

For long I had not noticed you enough
to even take you for granted.
But unknowingly I searched
for you in song after
song, in vain.

And many years later, our love rediscovered
you stood before me like Lord Krishna*-
your innumerable faces glowing
with inexplicable grace.

I had thought you were a mere construct,
To force order in the random, to impose
the strict boredom of regularity.

But now I stand before your infinite greatness
unbounded by notes but binding.

Today, I discover you as the universe-enveloping



  1. This poem is about my discovery of the beauty of raga(m)s in Carnatic music. Of course, I am treating the concept of raga(m) as one entity here, which might be arguable. But in tribute to her beauty (or should I say their?), I have tried a new rhythm/meter :)
  2. I dedicate this poem to the many many teachers who have tried to force some essence of music into my unrelenting head. Especially one of them who taught me enough to inspire this poem and who played a major part in my experience of the beauty I just mentioned. Thank you!
  3. *The reference to Lord Krishna is the scene where he takes vishwaroopa(m) in front of Arjuna on the battlefield.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The damned little cheat (Part 3 of 3)

(Continued from Part 1 and Part 2)

“What about her husband? I thought you said she married for love?”, I said.

“Well, I guess they had changed by then. Grown just so slightly apart. Or maybe grown too comfortable with each other. As they say, familiarity breeds contempt.” There, MY theory. I see it all the time, in every marriage. I don’t know why it is not obvious to people somehow.

“Anyway”, she continued, “she could not bear to remain without telling him. But, if she could tell, what would she say? ‘Hi, I am married, but I like you’? What would he think about her? What if he said- no, he didn’t want to ruin her marriage? How would she ever be able to work with him again? And what if he didn’t? Would she continue to love a man who was ok with cheating on someone? And what if it magically worked out? Wouldn’t it hurt her reputation?

Even if he understood, what would everyone else think? And how would that ruin the careful image of dignity and respect she had created around herself through these many years? It was not just the question of a woman who ended her marriage. It was the question of the manager who was most probable to become the VP in the next 5 years who would fall in the eyes of her colleagues to the level of a cheating woman. An adulteress. Or if all went well, a divorcee. Was she even ready for that possibility?

She didn’t know. But whenever she saw him, she forgot all her doubts. When he joked and she saw that smile, her brain seemed to melt. And all she ever wanted was to tell him. Nothing more. Just tell him. And hear him say he loves her too.

And then it happened. Yesterday, he told her he likes her, and would she join him for dinner?”

“What? He knew she was married and still wanted to see her?”

“Oh, I don’t think he knows. She has this thing that wedding rings and other such symbols are signs of bondage of the woman to the man. It’s an idea I also agree with. Why should women display prehistoric symbols of their slavery to their husbands? And why should women announce to the world they are married? It’s a personal thing.”

“But husbands wear their wedding rings too...”

“Not in all cultures. Anyway, I agree with her idea. Though, of course, at this point you might think it was just to make her situation convenient. It wasn’t.” 
And as if she realized she was speaking irrationally, she moved on quickly. 

“Anyway, I guess he didn’t know. And she told him that this was a tricky situation and she needs time to think it over. So what do you think she should do? Remember she loves him deeply. And he loves her too.”

“I still stick to my answer”

She looked up at me, “You know where this story is going, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. That woman is not someone else, right? It is your own story and you didn’t want to say it in first person. But I repeat- she should refuse”

“You are right about it being my story. But don’t you have any pity for someone in my position? Don’t you think I deserve to live with the man I truly love?”

Now I had to tell her my reason. It was going to be weird, but still.

“In fact, for the very fact that you love him so much you shouldn’t break your marriage to be with him. You shouldn’t let a love like that come to the sorry end that it definitely will, once you get married to this new guy, if it even lasts that long."I paused and looked up to see her reaction. Not much surprise.
"Besides, you might have noticed it is unfair to the husband?”, I said still looking at her.

Yes, her- the woman opposite my table. The woman I have been married to for the last five years, and have been cheating on for the last two, but never once thought of breaking the marriage.

It WAS unfair to the husband...


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The damned little cheat (Part 2 of 3)

(I know I said I will put this up in 2 days, but I got busy over the weekend so could put it up only now. Sorry about that! The concluding part will be up on Wednesday for sure. :)
Continued from Part 1.. )

“I mean you can tell me whatever it is. I won’t use it.”

“So tell me one thing- have you ever been in intense passionate love?”

I tried to play safe here- “Of course, lady. With a woman who to me is the most beautiful on Earth. But go on”.

“No, what if you found the love of your life, your soul-mate now? And you know you are committed to someone else?”

Ha, that one’s a toughie. Saying I would go after my love would put me in bad light. Saying I wouldn't was plain untrue and she would probably realize it. Stick to generalizations, I told myself. “That’s easy.  Well, I think of it as a contract I made. I might hate it, but I gotta stick with it.”

That was partly true, by the way. Underneath all my cynicism and general negativity, I had some old-fashioned ideas about sticking around even if you hate it. Though my reason was different. I believe that the legitimacy of something kills its pleasure. You see those young couples madly in love? See them after 20 years of living with each other. A sulking couple worrying about their children’s college tuition. You see, the charm of intense love always dies in a marriage. The passion gets lost in the grocery lists and sorting the laundry. It rusts and cobwebs grow over it- and the love dies so slowly you don’t know until it’s too late. So late that it doesn't even get the burial it so deserved. My take is: if you ever find the love of your life and want to keep it alive, don’t marry the person. The distance nourishes the tree of love and lets it grow.

Of course, I wasn't going to tell her that. That would have been very weird.

“Ah well. You are playing it safe, aren't you? So be it. Let me tell you a story...

There is this woman I know. She is about my age and is a project manager like me. One of the youngest managers. And you know how much that says for a woman. Very smart, works very hard. Tries her best not to let men misunderstand her.  And I can tell you how tricky THAT is. Oh, and she is married too. Just like me. She fell in love with this man- a very nice man he is, and they got married five years ago. So far so good.

About 2 months earlier, this young analyst joined her team as a new team manager. Smart guy, lots of fun to be with, very witty, very ethical. Extremely talented too. And single. I think he looks ok, but you know how people start looking good to you the more you know them. As you might guess, she started liking him.

It started as a simple appreciation of him as a person, but then it grew with every minute of his presence around her. And of course, as her direct report, he had to spend a good amount of time around her, alone. With his every smile, every word, the air between them became more electric. She started spending hours waiting for the minutes when she would meet him. She spent whole evenings just imagining that somehow things would work between them. She started trying to find excuses to talk to him. Her whole life began to revolve around his every action. There were times when she thought her heart would explode with the amount of passion she was feeling. And yet, she couldn't tell him.

She didn't know if he felt anything for her. Of course, he respected her and liked her. They got along pretty well and hung out many times as co-workers. Their chemistry was very good, but it was just a work chemistry. There was a line which both of them were afraid to cross. Sometimes, though, she thought he liked her. You know how some actions can acquire meaning depending on how you look at them.. A simple compliment can seem like a sudden outburst of his love which he dare not express, when it might really only be a simple compliment. When he didn't say much, she would think he was aloof and trying to avoid her because he couldn't stop himself from liking her. And then again, she would think ‘what if he really wants to avoid me?’

I don’t know if you have ever felt that kind of love, most people haven’t. But she was really going crazy about him.”

In her own words, 'It is a feeling whose magnitude can not be fettered by the shackles of a mere word- feeling. The phrase 'driving one crazy' makes so much sense now. Because I AM going crazy. It was like being permanently drunk. Except that I haven't even touched alcohol. I want to tell someone, anyone about it, and yet I can't. Nobody would understand. And worse still, they would think badly of me.'"

I was getting bored of this description. What the hell, I thought. She was in love. Period.

(To be concluded..)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The damned little cheat (Part 1 of 3)

(Starting another story in 3 parts. Will publish each part 2 days after the previous.)

The coffee was bitter. Yes, I know all coffee is bitter, but I had never noticed that before. That misty morning, I was sitting outside the coffee house in the cold breeze, newspaper in my left hand, the coffee on the table. I was swirling the coffee in my mouth, like wine tasters do wine.  Somehow it was as if everything in the world had added up to that moment- the breeze, the newspaper, the wine tasters in my imagination- adding up to that moment when I actually felt the bitterness of my coffee.

Well, well. I know I am rambling. I always do when I can’t find a story idea. You see, I work for the NY Times. Ya, I know. Prestigious newspaper and all that shit. I had to work my ass off before I got there. And it hasn't gotten any better- now I am working more and not even making too much. I am just one of those low ranked filler journalists- you know, the ones who work in departments that never hit the front page- but need to write so we can fill the space. Everybody here is so well-known already that even a good ex-journalist like me only gets filler jobs at first. I used to write education pieces in my previous job. My editor used to squash main pieces to give mine space. Well, at least he did that twice. But not at the NYT. No sir- I am a nobody here. To be swept onto the dustpan with all the junk. And to write dingy filler columns on Fall leaves and stray pups.

My job is really the opposite of my relationship. All prestige, no love. My girlfriend is no trophy woman but for the first time in my life I have known true love. Even though she is not even pretty- she is just beautiful in a quaint sort-of way. And that’s such a contrast to my first marriage- my wife was drop-dead gorgeous, came with a pile of inheritance money and was cold. But now I am in roses and candles love. I would say I am a has-been, but you can’t say that when you work for the NYT and have a girlfriend you truly love.

And still no ideas.

I was just looking around- trying to squeeze one tiny idea from my head. Zilch. I had got two leads this week- and both led to nothing. One was about some professor who had published a paper on Tarantino movies. I had almost done that piece when my editor decided the movies expert would do a better job covering it. And the other one was about a man who could swallow 170 serrano peppers without having anything else in between. I went to his place and found out he would only do that with peppers grown in his own home and that sounded a little fishy to me. Turns out he is growing some new hybrid variety of pepper. So that was dead. Anyway I still had to find something. Something that was important and true. But not so important that one of the front pages would snatch the piece from me.

I looked up from the newspaper- wait, what do I see? This woman sitting opposite me- so so pretty. At least SOME silver lining this morning, I thought, noticing she didn't have a ring on her finger.

“Hi” I smiled.

“Hi” She smiled back. “You don’t mind me sitting here, do you? I could leave if you want a table to yourself- sometimes people do. But I am very tired from my walk and the place is full.

“Of course not.”

I didn't know what to say next so I started sipping my coffee and thinking of ideas for my piece. Maybe I would call up Sonia. She might have some spare pieces- she reads a lot of online material, so there might be some “most popular in social media this week” thing there.

“What’s up?”, I heard a sweet voice. Had her voice been this sweet throughout? Not that I remember. Maybe it was like the bitterness of coffee- had always been there but took so long for my brain to get it.

“Oh, you know... I am just another journalist trying to think of story ideas” I said.
And thus began our casual conversation. We went on talking randomly- flitting from one topic to another like butterflies on spring flowers. But trying to avoid the serious ones. She was surprisingly interesting (yet another dawned-on-me-suddenly type discovery) and anyway I had nothing to do but wait till 11 when Sonia gets to work. So I chatted away happily.

Until she said it- “If you don’t mind, I want to talk about something that’s been disturbing me for some time now. It’s a little weird, so I hope you won’t judge me on it. I just needed to talk about it to someone when I walked in here, hadn't thought of whom to. But now that we are talking, I thought I might tell you. I hope you won’t use it for some newspaper article.”
“Of course not”, I said, while thinking to myself- ‘It depends on what your story is!’ Actually I didn't mind her saying it was weird. If it was good, I could definitely use it somewhere. Besides I was observing how perfectly beautiful she was- especially with her super sweet voice.

(To be continued...)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


"Oh, what does it matter? It is like infinity + 1" , I said
"What do you mean- infinity + 1?" 
"Well, infinity +1 would still be infinity. It's an incremental change. Doesn't change a thing in the world", I went on.
And then my friend stumped me by quoting one of my own favorite lines- "But it made a difference to that one!"
"Inspiration story wise, I love that line. But mathematically speaking infinity+1 cannot be bigger than infinity. It just doesn't work that way."

Sparing you the rest of the conversation, let me get to my point. Infinity is really a fascinating idea. When somebody tells you- we are in an infinite cycle of birth and death (theologically speaking, or speaking of physics), I immediately think "But when was the first time you were born?" It's a chicken and egg problem- if I want to tell myself the universe is infinite I wonder how it all started. But if I try to reconcile that it is in fact, finite- then my mind goes "But what was there before it all started?" Well, it looks like I'd never get it. Maybe it is not just unknown but unknowable (ya, now I am an infinity agnostic :P)

Anyway, when I spoke of infinity+1, I spoke like it's any other number. Which, of course it isn't. When someone says God has infinite powers, they don't mean he has 9^(9^9) powers or something. They usually mean endless. There is just one infinity. And it's endless. All-encompassing. At least that's what I thought of infinity until yesterday... Yesterday, I happened to read a little about Modern Set Theory and cardinal numbers, and then I realized, infinity is not just a concept of endlessness- there are infinite infinities in this world. 

Wait, whaaa? 
(Click on Read more for more)