Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wavering Loyalty

My loyalty wavers.

One is of the home. The other, of a faraway land.
She, of my home is chaste as the sun; giving admission to no one new, dwelling with those who passed her fire test long ago and gained entitlement to her dominion.
The other, of that faraway land is libertine, admitting into her territory, anyone high or low born, from anywhere, who knocks on her door thrice.
At times, even passers by, whom she takes a fancy to, she abducts.

One lives on her own terms; terms engraved on hard granite, never making compromises.
The terms of the other are etched on sand, easily blurred by a wave of time or a breeze carrying the grit of another shore.
Even the hot breath of a vagrant peering into her room, turns into vapour, a term or two of hers.

One sublime. Only those possessing a taste for the esoteric avail her society.
The other is the hope and assurance of the unlettered.

The form of one is unchanging.
The other, who feeds from the hands of those countless acquaintances, is becoming voluptuous by the hour.

One is impeccable. Flawless. Solemn. Deserving worship.
The other is full of idiosyncrasies, some charming, some annoying. Yet, her popularity is irresistible.
She befriends all and that’s why she is much loved.
She is prancing about. Sometimes here, other times there, everywhere all at once...
She changes colour and form, style and manners...with time and land...
And for all that debauchery, whenever I have had an occasional glimpse of her dazzling white pure form, in those fresh hours of dawn, among her own people in that antique land, I sigh and sigh again and sigh some more.

Between the Sanskrit language and English, one beautiful, the other coquettish, one white and unblemished, the other purple with bruises of debauchery, my loyalty wavers.

Sanskrit, with a vocabulary that’s inviolate, a grammar engraved on hard granite, giving admission to no letter from another tongue, ‘more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either’, is of my land.
English, full of unscientific idiosyncrasies, growing by the year with words, slang and colloquial taken from many foreign languages and rolled about the far from malleable tongues of all sorts of people all over the world is of another land.

Yet, for all the purple bruises that debauch the Oxford dictionary, when I read those passages written in the pure dazzling white of Queen’s English, during the dawn of the language two hundred years ago, among the English men of her own land, like that dispatch sent by a British Resident in Hyderabad to Lord Wellesley in Calcutta in 1786 - where every preposition, every conjunction is put to its best use, brevity is non-existent but a sentence spanning an entire page exemplifies economy of writing, the observance of the highest code of propriety is untiring, the solemnity of words clothe the banality of content, everything gross is alluded to with admirable finesse, the unmentionables are never once mentioned but are conveyed though with skilfull insinuations – when I read those solemn English passages, my loyalty wavers and I sigh and sigh again and sigh some more.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Designs Of Our Time

Pieces of broken pots, shards of pottery, a picture on a porcelain piece, a crude painting in a cave, engravings on a rock by a river, a goat embossed on a coin, were but the ramblings of a tribe. Who ever thought they would one day find a place in a jealously guarded museum fitted with burglar alarms? Who ever thought millionaires would vie for their possession in an auction?

Everything man creates is an antique. It’s only a matter of time before someone realizes it is.

Have you seen the Nightingale notebooks? It was during the inaugural ceremony of my friend Nikhil’s store “William Penn’ (a well chosen name for a pen store) at Jayanagar next to Ganesh Darshan (Dosa camp) that I first saw these books. I loved them for the cover. Pencil sketches of personalities in black and brown on a white background. The book had a quote from the personality on each page in the footer.a total of 224 quotes. The first one I bought was a George Bernard Shaw, for a 10 percent discount.

I didn’t know how to put the book to use. I was reluctant to use it in the first place – I wanted it to be new forever. Some of my belongings – clothes, footwear, souvenirs – are still in their packing covers for the same reason.

I think I took them to my Toastmasters meetings for a few days. But finally I chose the book for taking notes while reading. That’s how I read – I don’t read, I study – about that I will tell you more, but another time.

I then bought the notebook with the Buddha theme which I used for the same purpose and then I ‘acquired’ the Shakespeare book too.

When I visited Landmark to pick a book to gift to Shantanu, a colleague who was departing, I went to the stationary section and asked for books of the ‘notebook’ brand. I did not know the brand was ‘Nightingale’. I thought it was ‘NoteBook’ since that was what was printed in bold on the front cover on the books.

The staff told me without blinking that they didn’t have it. I was irritated because I had seen them neatly stacked only last month. Shop keepers not knowing their own stuff is a common problem these days. Don’t know if this complacency is due to ‘lack of customer care’ or ‘economic well being’.

So I asked the other staff, explained to them what I wanted and was finally taken to the right stand. This time I picked up two theme books – Vivekananda and Gandhi, and 3 books with no particular theme but very beautiful covers. So I bought 5 of them.
Shantanu paid for one of the books. It was his return gift for the party we gave him.

Here are the pictures of all those designs. Designs of ‘our time’. For posterity.

I wish I had taken pictures of all the notebooks that I had used when in school and college, each purchased after careful selection, in different stationery stores, from half a dozen towns and cities in India, that my father’s transferable job took us to...

By the way, I am not a fan of cars and bikes. But it was during that inaugural ceremony that I saw Nikhil’s father arriving in his Corolla and I took an instant liking to the car.
Even to this day, it is one of my favourite cars. But not any colour. Just the pearl colour, a particular model I can recognize on road but cannot name.

The pen shop is no longer there. I don’t know when they closed it and why but whenever I pass by that road, I think about it, look at the spot where it used to be and think of Nikhil, an old friend, I think of Mysore, of the Times of India extempore contest that our Teresian College had hosted, in which he had been a participant and I, a spectator, silently wishing I could speak spontaneously too.

Robin Sharma is so right when he says ‘take lots of pictures’.
In retrospect, each picture is a story, an episode of life, of strife, set in a space and time that will never ever come again.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Everest Calling - Dingboche to Lobuche

The trek from Dingboche to Lobuche is becoming too painful and laborious because of dearth of oxygen. And the dearth of oxygen is becoming obvious by my becoming out of breath.

The empty bag I am carrying is hurting my shoulders. Nandu has been most helpful. I asked him for those energy chomps which he had been offering me earlier and I had been refusing. Nothing really helped. I had to get used to it eventually.

Walking in the snow to Lobuche was not at all bad. I was still in a position to take out my camera and shoot. That means all was well.

Everyone is counting days before they will reach their cities and resume normal lives. 7 more days… 6 more days… only one or two want to come back to go to Chola pass and Gokyo. Surprisingly they aren’t counting days before they will stand in front of Everest.

Having seen the altitude of 5000 meters by now, having seen what it means to get there, I will count it among the accomplishments of my life.

The job of a porter is the toughest job in the world. Or so it felt when we saw them. They carry more than 50 kilos on their back and march uphill. Gas cylinders, luggage, wooden planks, sacks…they carry all kinds of things.

Haldiram snacks are a delicacy. Everyone wants to snatch them from one another’s hands – Alu Bhujia, Moong Dal.

I am tired and sleep deprived. But I want to see both EBC and Kala Patthar.