Tag Archives: musings

Writing and Nostalgia

A massive storm is approaching the East Coast this holiday season. It’s going to bring rain and snow and strong winds. Outside my window, broad daylight already looks like night. It’s like someone has wiped the window panes with a thin layer of gray, translucent paint. Everything looks more drab and ominous than usual.

The water of the river looks muddy, the sharp, gray, city skyline has its sharp edges smudged against an even grayer sky. The world has lost colour. The creams and yellows of surrounding buildings, ponchos and umbrellas look off white and ashen in the reduced light.

I know what it must feel like outside. Continue reading Writing and Nostalgia

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Pictures and desires

I have often wondered why people put up pictures  on their walls. Especially scenery. What it is that makes them desire a bit of the outside world onto this vertical surface that signifies a boundary, a separation of the house from the very world that the picture represents? Continue reading Pictures and desires

Dusk on a Friday

From where I sit on my couch, I can see a vast expanse of the river. But when it’s evening, like now, the lights start dimming in the distance and the darkness closes in slowly, smothering the sunny day that is a thing of the past now.

It dawns on me why dusk is a sad time for most people. Continue reading Dusk on a Friday

The lost art of being alone

I was thinking of a painting I imagined myself this morning.

A water colour of a woman in a white bonnet on a hilltop with her back to the viewer. There are rolling hills all around dotted by white and yellow grass flowers as far as the eye can see. It’s springtime. There is no noise except that of the passing breeze. She is drinking in the surroundings alone, at peace.

Then I imagined another painting. A man in a dark room at a solid, brown, wooden table sitting by candlelight at work. Everything beyond that circle of light is dark, undefinable, unfathomable. Quiet. Night. Perhaps someone else is reading or writing a letter in another corner beyond the scope of the painting. Only his heavy breathing is audible. This man is secluded completely.

I see a third painting. Two people sitting in a sparsely furnished room engaged in deep discussion. They are looking intently at each other. You are aware that that is how they have been in conversation for the last half hour even though this painting has only captured a moment in their interaction. A tiny fraction of their concentration.

As a viewer, I feel like an intruder. I mustn’t be here watching them.

Then I think of a real-life scenario. What would it have been like if they were real people in my own place and time? Continue reading The lost art of being alone

Memory’s oases

When we were six or seven, we used to live in an oasis in the heart of Calcutta. Everywhere else the city was teeming with people, concrete, dust, dirt, cars, buses and street hawkers–an overload to the senses.

Yet, in the midst of it all was our oasis of a housing complex and a quiet street of some offices–a collection of buildings owned by the Railways to which change had not come in a long time.There had been few new constructions since the days the Brits were here and so the buildings were solid but not modern and the trees were all old and shady. Continue reading Memory’s oases

In defense of purposeless writing

I have been wondering, like many a scattered soul on the blogosphere, about what it might mean to write aimlessly. By aimlessly I mean to write without a specific purpose such as to sell, to build a resume, to add to a larger work, or to vent.

When I browse posts in an unfiltered sort of way, without any express purpose as a reader, my idle meanderings make me speculate on a purpose (or perhaps the purpose) that writing serves in our lives.
Continue reading In defense of purposeless writing

Global Indians: Distance and the World

When I was a child in Calcutta in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we didn’t have the internet. When we wanted to see the world, we looked at a big globe which belonged to my brother. We would  twirl it round and round and look at all the countries separated by blue oceans and black lines, coloured in different colours and marked in little letters.

It would give us a thrill to check out countries that we had never discovered before. We looked at the antipodes that were the furthest from where we were and tell each other that it was night there while it was day here. That seemed so strange. Many of my friends’ favourite game was a rapid fire round of naming countries when you had to respond by naming the capital city.
Continue reading Global Indians: Distance and the World

Privacy: The Indian and the American frames of mind

It was the sight of a small university town that greeted me the day I first landed in the US.  I noticed the big houses and the wide roads and the even bigger cars on my way to a student apartment where I was going to stay as a guest for a few days.

The next day, I took a bus to campus to do some admission paperwork. The buses, of course, were far less crowded than the ones I was used to in India. But the people, who were mostly young students, were also different in a fundamental way.
Continue reading Privacy: The Indian and the American frames of mind

Night

The river is completely dark. A solitary vessel is glowing  like a diamond-studded jewel on the inky black surface. The roar of the helicopters that criss-cross the sky all day is finally gone. The voices of the people who pass by speaking a dozen languages about office affairs by my window in the afternoons and evenings are all silent.

Even the gulls are gone.

A solitary lamp glows on my nightstand providing just enough light to illuminate my keyboard rather insufficiently. When I look outside the window I see circles of light on the concrete right below the street lamps in a straight line all along the river.

There is no one there. Yet I don’t feel alone.
Continue reading Night

A quiet walk on New Year’s eve

Every New Year’s eve seems like the brink of something momentous. As though we are suddenly standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon looking into a vast uncharted space where anything can happen. A second chance at things left behind in the old year. A significant mark on the graph of life.

I’ve celebrated this significant moment in many spectacular ways in years past commemorating  the glory that such a transition is in a way that matched the perceived momentousness of the event.

I’ve spent it on a revolving dance floor in front of the fog machine in Ybor City in Florida. I’ve watched glorious fireworks lighting up the night sky amongst hundreds of people in Las Vegas and Boston. I’ve brought back shiny stars and conical paper caps after parties in Calcutta.

And yet, this year was about a quiet walk by myself along the river towards a train station and a town square near the place I live. All urban, concrete, full of shadows, strangely quiet because of the cold at night.
Continue reading A quiet walk on New Year’s eve

Daylight Saving Time ends today

The clock on the dresser said 8 am. I had woken up. I was just about to move myself out of bed (and perhaps even make myself a cup of tea). I was almost at the brink of thinking up some ideas to write on. Maybe even make breakfast.

I was just about to place my present at the right moment in the scale of my life between the blank that came right after I went to bed last night and this morning when I rose out of the foggy depths of sleep.

Time was supposed to pass slowly because it was Sunday. Continue reading Daylight Saving Time ends today

On the solitary and the social scholar

I was at a huge social gathering this weekend where women were dressed in their choicest attire and men were at their blustering best.  There was a  lot of noise and a lot of good food deftly travelling on huge trays  weaving between the crowds miraculously avoiding dunking someone in a bucketful of gravy.

A million children of all ages swished around the great hall and the stairwells and the tent and the garden like schools of fish about to arrange themselves into different colourful formations, engulfing each old shape into a new  one as their direction changed, like the groups of fish in Finding Nemo.

But as I turned a corner relatively hidden from the noise and the bustle, a different sight caught my eye. Continue reading On the solitary and the social scholar

Missing experiences surrounding print newspapers

obligatory "reading newspaper in the dead...
Can you do that with a laptop? (Photo credit: Catie & Linds)

We had some new furniture delivered the other day. As will happen with deliveries, some chinks and scratches appeared on the varnished surface as an inevitable part of the delivery process. The store sent a very gentlemanly elderly man to paint over the chinks. He had a can of spray with him. He cleaned the surface with sandpaper, readied the spout over the scratched area and asked me a very normal question.

“Can you give me some newspapers?”

Continue reading Missing experiences surrounding print newspapers

Those scholars in our libraries

I was sitting at a university library  in a small, white cubicle a few years ago. Those cubicles were just big enough for one person to sit in with a ledge that served as a table and a shelf above the ledge that held books. Under the table-like shelf were plug points for laptops. These cubbyholes were highly prized and had to be applied for way in advance. Only very few people ever got one allotted to them. The tops of the cubicles were open and there were locks on every door. The keys were the coveted prize.
Continue reading Those scholars in our libraries

How to blog or not to blog that is the question

There are many ways that people seem to be using the medium of blogging. What I’ve been attracted to here is mostly the more creative and reflective blogs. By looking at them, I’ve learnt from what different folks have been trying to achieve through blogging. (In what follows, I’m not thinking of the informative, expository kind of blogs.)

For me, this is mainly an exercise in self-exploration to see where I might go with blogging myself. Looking at what other people are doing is a great way to learn and increase the possibilities of my own blog.

Doodle You
Continue reading How to blog or not to blog that is the question

My Blog Readers

The internet is a nameless, faceless place if you want it to be. But all the same, it’s populated with people. Just like you or me. It’s like being on the road. Those cars seem to be trucks or sedans or tiny Beetles hurtling down the road but they’re really not.

There are people behind those big machines and just like people, they have natures of their own.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had some people read my blogs recently. As I’ve interacted with some of them, explicitly through comments, or implicitly by observing their “likes,” or sensing their lack of interest through absence, I’ve been thinking of them as people (as I did in My Blog Audience).

But I have also been thinking of them more specifically as readers.
Continue reading My Blog Readers

On being Freshly Pressed

I had been nurturing my fledgeling blog for several weeks now when all of a sudden I receive this email from WordPress asking me to look out for my blog to be featured in the next few days. Continue reading On being Freshly Pressed

7 Job seekers’ conundrums

You’ve worked hard. You’ve gotten a degree. And then you start looking for a job.

You skim through thousands of job ads. You encounter buzzwords and concepts that whizz through your head like bullets.

Each one is a paradox. Or a tautology.

Or whatever. Continue reading 7 Job seekers’ conundrums