Ghosted

city, india, Life, Uncategorized

I wait at the entrance of a bar
Brewery, drinking hole, a bustling space
Dreading the meet to come, I’d rather be someplace else.
Someplace else with friends, comrades, keepers of my soul
Fragments of my fellowship
Friends with broken arms
Friends chasing stories
Friends who feel ghosted
I’d rather be there instead of here
Here the hope is that there will be a story for the evening
To move beyond borrowed experience and have some of my own.
So when I meet these dear friends again, there will be a tale to tell
An evening to narrate
And belonging to feel

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Lightning over panama

america, Life, sky, travel, Uncategorized

I saw lightning over Panama
Piercing the white armor of steam
Oblivious to the lives below
Far more grand, far too visceral
Unfettered by the sheet of blue
Shattering the calm dark of the full moon,
I saw lightning over Panama

I saw it in a distance : a majestic crackle in the sky
I hope it looks the same from everywhere : the rapturous crackle in the sky

I thought the light is the same for everyone everywhere.

As I saw lightning over Panama

(Me, 2016)

Chains

america, college, Life, study

Imagine a body; tied and subjugated. One born so, just like its fore-bearers, and its bloodline as far as it can imagine time and history. The entirety of its life can be captured in one single unchanging frame; half bent, with a wooden structure inextricably tied to its arms and neck. Prevented from ever standing upright or bending completely, all the body ever does is drag the structure forward. This might not seem like the best way, but efficiency isn’t particularly a concern. Or perhaps it is a different kind of efficiency altogether. Given the limited visibility, the landscape in its vision changes constantly in movement, but never in character, form, beauty, or even promise.

One day, the body has had enough! It explodes in a burst of strength that shatters its wooden prison into pieces. As the splintered remains of the enslaver slides of the body, it rises up with a crackling sound unfamiliar to its own constitution. Its vision moves in the direction it has always wanted to; up and ahead. Upright for the first time, the eyes behold a landscape farther than they have ever seen, distances which seem infinite but attainable. Even as the back comes to term with a posture so fantastic and alien, the body’s resolution is set. It will move forward, but this time, on its own terms; towards the distant horizon. This is its promise, its future, its singular salvation. In time and space, it will be what it wants, what it never was.

As the newly liberated body takes its first step, it stumbles and falls. “It’s just the first step, the body is simply adjusting to the new conditions…” it thinks to itself. Unwavering in resolve and fixed vision, the body rises and moves forward. Only to fall again. As time passes, a new routine emerges; the path to progress and salvation becomes that of  an upright and forward facing body, falling again and again. “The horizon must be where this stops! The horizon is where this atrocious despair will end! This body, at the horizon is the the promise. I can unmake all that I was, become new, tirelessly march on, towards a new horizon! Perhaps even rest! If only this dratted stumbling would stop, I’d reach faster. I am doing everything right anyway. Straight vision, focus, determination, and movement!!. The promise of my promise will not elude me!”, as its hands reach for the fast approaching earth to break the fall.  

The falling continues. The seething sun and the rough terrain, earlier naturalized and discounted, now become impediments constantly assaulting the liberated body. Somewhere between where it started, the point of its liberation and the rupture from its forgotten past, and its failing movement towards nowhere, the body stops. We’d never quite know why it stopped. Presumably to catch a breath and continue on. Perhaps it was tired. Perhaps it lost hope. Or perhaps it was just a glitch in its internal circuitry causing it to halt for but a second. But in that brief moment of respite, the body became aware of itself, and looked down. And as the eyes beheld its own body, and micro-seconds later, so did its consciousness; the unyielding chains around its bloody legs became loud, heavy, and painful. The chains that never left it. The ones the body never remembered to shed, or even notice. Perhaps they couldn’t ever be shed. Not by lack of wanting, but somethings never can be.

The constant companion between your rupture with the past, and the future that is nowhere.

PS.: My flatmate suggested this could be something one could call the ‘Manacles of History’. I want to improve this metaphor. History and its manifestations expressed as a individual experience could be conceptually misleading. Perhaps the manacles are experienced differentially across space, time, and the social. Perhaps chains is not the best metaphor. But it is the one I thought of right now. I will work on it I guess. What got me thinking about this was the Angel of History.


There is a painting by Klee called Angelus Novus. An angel is depicted there who looks as though he were about to distance himself from something which he is staring at. His eyes are opened wide, his mouth stands open and his wings are outstretched. The Angel of History must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment so fair , to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. That which we call progress, is this storm.

(Benjamin, 1940)


The guessing game

america, college, Life

Guess whose account had 500 dollars withdrawn from it from an atm far far away?

Guess who never ever visited that ATM?

Guess whose finances are now precariously fuckered?

Guess who is going to have to manage this, apart from all the studying that needs to be done?

T’is I, and this is not but a scratch.
Tata!

 

P.S. I now have the flu.

Slide #1

america, college, Life, philadelphia, study

Hi,

I am currently struggling to put an entire semester’s worth of reading (10 books, 20+papers, and an infinite number of articles) in a 10 slide presentation. All I have for now is  the introductory slide (in Gray Scale: because meh) with my name on it. Fuck.

We conjured up visions of utopia in our heads, only to find ourselves incapable of realizing it. Then, we built the machines.

As I scramble to make a coherent presentation during what has been a truly terrible week, I am struck by my inadequacies. Not with words, or thoughts. Those I have plenty of, but they aren’t half as disconcerting. This is  a far deeper shortcoming I have managed to live with long enough to have  forgotten about. Today seemed like a good day for it to emerge though; on the edge of a long stressful semester, dancing around my thoughts, inserting itself in all that I see, hear, feel, and most importantly, think.

Then they dreamed some more.

And as I stare at this blank slide, I think of every single person I have read about. Their work I read, consumed, and admired. Sometimes it was shit. But still. People who wrote about all that they were passionate about, all that made them tick, all that fed their desire to live, to wake up and accept the drudgery of life as a small price to manifest their truest passions in words. This could be for multiple reasons; knowledge, general altruism,  fame, or even tenure. But I wont begrudge anyone their motivations, nor would I extol them more  than necessary.

One must at least dream to have faith

I say this because I have always imagined that one day I would write  in a fashion. The sort which flows, within the realm of writing logic and understanding, but a flow unfettered. The thought itself is more pleasing than anything else I can think of. Even as I constructed these elaborate dreams, they were explained as a future certainty, woven together with a promise of a more accomplished me, contributing, participating, and building; if not in form, in flow.

But I see it now, a jolting reminder  hitting me right in the face. What I lack is faith. A term I have always derided, if not ignored entirely. This is not faith of religious kind that I refer to. Or I could be. I dont really know anymore. How would I ever write something of value if I don’t repose myself within any meaningful understanding of the world? What would it be worth if I reject the magic or the logic from whence comes that which I write? Even as I try to write this concluding section, I find myself restricted by my own thoughts and uncertainty about what I really wish to communicate. Well that, and the blank slide. But suffice to say, I feel a deep sense of unease both from the source of the unease, and my inability to put it to words.

So I shall end here.

From faith stems feelings, from feelings stems conviction, and from conviction, fortitude

 

Si

This is not how I…

america, college, Life, philadelphia, study

… expected my Monday to turn out. At all. Someone else gone done fucked up. And now I am privy to secrets I’d rather not have known. Or be aware of. Or exist in the same space as that particular snippet of information. Especially, since I spent an entire year vacating that space.
Sorry for being cryptic, but suffice to say,  pleasant company was the only high point of my day.

Also, I can’t do math.

On the bright side, I have econometrics, and math to look forward to tomorrow. Sweet.

Gnight

Ps. Just had my last cigarette. Hopefully for life. Or for the foreseeable future at least. Sincere apologies to my lungs and all other bodily parts for almost a decade of incessant vapoury violence. But I don’t think I want to do this anymore.
There is far too much abuse in the world. The least I can do is breathe fresh while being depressed about it.

Kitty in the discotheque

alone, america, college, Life, philadelphia

Greetings of the new year. And Christmas too if you are in Russia, Serbia, and other countries which insist on flipping their calendars differently.

My love affair with everywhere
Was innocent why do you care

I have been meaning to write. A lot. Over the last few months, far too much has transpired which I would have been more than happy to share. I have also cracked jokes which no one has laughed at. And I have stared on with a blank expression as everyone around me laughed. Clearly my love affair with humor in this country is going to be a  slow one, and more courtship is required. Speaking of courtship, I have either become very unattractive, lost my game, or am doing something horribly wrong. Those could be the possible reasons why I am yet to actually have a conversation with a woman here.

A single woman in Philadelphia that is. Of which there are three! I am certain.

And lastly, the postcards! My pièce de résistance. 80 plus cards, 40 plus women, 4 continents, 8 countries, 16 states, 20 cities, 250 roads, 3000 pit stops, and other such  impressive statistics. I am extremely proud of the fact that I managed to send them across to as many people I could think of. People who were important, and needed to thanked, social capital to be retained, and ancient oaths to be reminded of. Mostly thanked. Whether you read this or not, I am exceedingly grateful all of you exist, and occasionally put up with me. Thank you. And If I have missed out on sending you one, its either because I did not have your address, or I ran out of money. Could be both. But  I am seriously broke now. And exhausted with the English language. I am doubting my ability to string together half-meaningful words. Short this shall be.

My what a good day just to let it slide
I’d like to say we did it for the better of

I turned 27 today. Well, yesterday according to Indian Standard time. But January 7th is ending as I write this, and I feel a familiar sense of relief that follows the birthday. I have disliked birthdays for as long as I can remember, even though my reasons have evolved over time. So let me take you through it as quickly as  possible.

A long time ago, on January 7th of the year Nineteen Hundred and something, everyone forgot my birthday. Everyone. My dad woke up, went to work. My mum sent me to school. School went by normally. When I came back, my grandmother did the usual;hit once, feed twice (you know, the grandmotherly stuff). In all fairness, my grandmother didn’t know how old she was, or when she was born, so I wasn’t expecting her to wish me. My aunt came over as usual, and I even asked her the date as she was leaving. “7th of January it is” she said. “Seventh eh?” I must have asked. She nodded and walked away. I remember walking up to a dog, and telling him it was my birthday. He too walked away. And that was it.

That evening, I raised hell. Six types that too. Objects were hurled, things were said, love questioned. And to everyone’s discomfort, I wasn’t very quiet about it either.

I thought about it and I brought it out
I’m motivated by the lack of doubt

Every single time I narrate this incident, most people focus on the forgetting part and ‘aww’ it away. But the most crucial incident is what followed. Either one year (or one week) later, my parents decided to throw a party. My house doesnt throw parties, nor does it celebrate anything. In fact, my house isn’t very used to the idea of guests either.  There is enough furniture in my house to accommodate 15-20 people. But my father prefers sleeping on the floor, or is cleaning it. My mother is constantly in motion, and the kids are never there. So the only thing sitting in my house is the furniture itself. You get the point. Therefore, in retrospect I deeply appreciate the effort they must have gone through to bother inviting people. And that is when it happened. Surrounded by 20 people, all singing and cheering, I realized something which has stuck with me for a very long time; I hated it. I truly did. I felt immense disconnect from whatever was happening, and simply wanted to be alone. And so it has been for every birthday since.

But that was then. Now I just get depressed on my birthdays. I really wanted to write about that today, but even thinking about it is very upsetting. So I am going to let it slide.

My what a good day for a walk outside
I’d like to get to know you a little better baby
God knows that I’ll really tried

Meanwhile, in 2016, the weather has been fabulous. Thanks to climate change and other myriad reasons, the infamous east coast winter is yet to descend upon me with wanton intensity. Barring a few ball-freezing nights, the weather have been very nice; nights are cold and chilly, and days are sunny and walkable. I have of course spent all of this time, in one position, on my couch, discovering the joys and secrets of Netflix. God I love it! I am making up for all the missed pop-culture from the last 3 months, and some more. Strangely enough, there is a certain joy of watching movies you have paid for. I feel like such an adult!

Apart from that, I have spent the entirety of my break eating, going to new places in the city to eat, and not eating through the day just to make space for a voluminous dinner. So that. Netflix. Food. Occasional Walks. And done.

Oh yes! Museums. I went to a few museums. Saw them Monets, and them Renoirs, and them Goghs. As cool I may want to sound about all this, it did blow my mind. I never imagined I would be this close to seeing the originals. But here I am, and perhaps I will visit the museum in secret soon. And do the sit-on-the-desk-and-look-at-the-painting-what-does-it-say-to-you-son?

You don’t form in the wet sand
You don’t form at all

You don’t form in the wet sand
I do Yeah

And finally, the panic. I haven’t panicked this much since, well, ever. You know how you think you get into an Ivy league college and then you are sorted with the self doubt issues? Okay, that may not even be a thought about thing. But you know;

Step 1: Ivy league

Step 2: Education, and all things wonderful

Step 4: Profit

So….not really. I am applying for a summer internship. And even though it is a straight forward application process and the people seem nice,  I am vigorously shitting Olympic-sized bricks. I have edited my CV 5 times already, and even sent it to some to check the font! The bloody font! However, in the brief waking moments when I am not exuding nervousness, I am amazed at how worried I am about this opportunity. Its very unlike me to worry about things unless there is ‘a coin in the washing machine’,’left the stove on’, or even a rare ‘no fresh sheets’ involved. The fun domestic stuff. And that’s when it hits me; this is probably the first time in my adult life, that I have seen and identified something I truly want. The work they do, is the sort I would want to  do for a very long time. And the only thing I have ever wanted to do over a long period of time is to not die.

So this is progress. Welcome news indeed. I shall try my best to not fuck it up. And submit it on time. And not pick my nose when nervous.

I am tired now. It has been a long day of avoiding calls, responding awkwardly to wishes, and trying my best to be asocial. I shall reward myself tomorrow by attempting to bake bread. Following which I shall attempt to break bread.

GOD I ALWAYS WANTED TO SAY THAT!!

Bye.

My what a good day just to let it slide
I’d like to say we did it for the better of

Grayscale

america, college, Life

When I first typed these words, this was going to an optimistic post about hope and positive attitude in life. Then, I went blind…

Let us rewind a bit. I have been in the USA for about a month now. Enough time for anyone with sufficient amount of pop-culture to settle right in. But I don’t know if I have. In a way I have, but a part of me still insists on speaking really fast, and walking on the left side of road. DISSENT 101.

But for all practical purposes, I am fine now.

But has the fuckery stopped?  NO! God no!

So without any further delay, let me take you on a journey down the rabbit hole, to a magical land called ‘perma-fuck’. It is guarded by an airport official. Who manages to, and I really don’t know how, get my passport number wrong. In effect delaying the most important document (I-94) proving my immigration into this country. Now I am extremely used to people getting my name wrong (in spelling, spirit, and essence). So I tried every possible variant of my name to try and access my immigration document online. Three days, many smokes, and four deportation nightmares later, I was told that it wasn’t my fault, and it would be sorted out soon.

Meanwhile, classes proceeded at their normal (read: possibly criminal) pace. I read more than I ever have, before class that is. I sent mails to people requesting appointments without knowing what I was going to meet them for. But every time I came even remotely close to ‘settling in’ and focusing on studying, the ugly head of ‘admin’ would raise itself and shake me from my apparently undeserved stupor. But even that was being dealt with. Slowly and steadily, I filled up my forms and was ready for the final step: Social Security Number. All I had to do was wait for the I-94 to be rectified.

And then it was. I had it all; work authorization, stamped form from the relevant authorities, and freshly printed I-94 bearing testimony to my lawful entry into the country. That day, like many before that, actual studying was sacrificed for the noble cause of getting this done. I walked into the Social Security Office with a very pleased expression hoping to get over with it very soon.  That was the last time I smiled that week.

My name was messed up. Everywhere. On my passport, on the I20, on the I94, and on the form. I was sent back on a Thursday, before the Labour Day weekend, to get ALL OF THE THINGS right. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. But something else happened. Walking between two offices, once again on the wrong side of the road, I was mentally spent in a way I had never been. I have been stressed before. I have been stressed by situations before. I have been stressed by other people before. Hell! I got psoriasis because of one. But never like this. Never have I felt this sheer level of co-ordination in things going wrong. And then as I walked on, it struck me. None of this was my fault. Admin here can fuck-up here just as badly as back home; it takes just as much maneuvering here as it would anywhere. I didn’t stand out walking into a crowd of oncoming people any more. I belonged there just as much as anyone else. They weren’t exceptionally different, just a lot of people walking from classes to other classes. One hundred per cent  people. That I could handle. The frustration felt so normal and familiar that it was very calming. And that day I knew, I was going to be all right. All of this would sort itself out.

And then my phone screen cracked…

So that happened. While trying to sort out all of the aforementioned mess, my phone screen just cracked. No sudden incident, no droppage, no mishandling. It just cracked. I didn’t have a Social Security number, a driving license, no official proof to get my stipend, and then, no phone. I don’t think I have ever laughed harder. I couldn’t possibly react any other way. There is only so much a person can take before feeling the pressure. Thankfully my chronology of dealing with pressure is; crying, straight face, straight face, inappropriate jokes, and laughter. I had reached my limit with the I-94 incident, and then this happened. How could I possibly react when I had already stopped giving fucks?

Addendum: A phone is not just a bunch of circuits, LEDs, and a screen panel. It is also a lot of muscle memory, self-reflection, personification, and identification. In my case, it was my fucking passwords. Lost all of them. My accounts had to be reset. All of them. My bank account got blocked and much annoyance ensued.

None of this compares to the pain of watching your once beautiful phone, now completely invalid, incapable of even the basic functions. It felt like a futile exercise to keep charging the phone as the touch functionality died, inch-by-inch, by the hour. But I did it. Eventually, it was reduced to a mute spectator. Non responsive to my frantic attempts to make it react to my touch, even if for one last time.

On the bright side, it was a good occasion to channel my inherent promiscuity and order the cheapest Nexus phone.

That I did. Before I knew it, I had a new phone. My accounts were eventually restored. I got my Social security number, albeit with a combination of my name and middle name. And life slowly approached normalcy. That’s when I had the dream.

There is a myriad assortment of literature which deals with the experience of an immigrant (legal or otherwise) in a new country. A lot of them address the sense of detachment, alienation, and an equal amount of fascination with a new culture.  Some of it is funny, some quite profound, However, none of it, as far I know, ever mentions dreams.

I had my first multi-racial dream two weeks ago. You might think it’s ridiculous to mention, but I think it is quite pertinent. I had never realised that I have always dreamed ‘brown’. On account of being, you know, brown. And dreaming is different from day-dreaming, or fantasizing. Because in the latter, I think you are sub-consciously aware of the false nature of the imagery playing around in your head. So when I woke up after a dream comprised entirely of non-brown people, it was slightly awkward. While the actual content of the dream was rather uneventful, the feelings that accompanied the dream were both normal and strange at the same time. Perhaps my brain has internalized the realities of my new environment, and is reflecting that in my nocturnal adventures. I think it’s always a good thing when your subconscious is on the same page as you. I guess it is settling in as well.

I have been rather busy since the dream, and after all the stressful excitement died down. I am reading more every day, putting in more hours of actual work than I ever have. This is not to say that procrastination doesn’t happen, or that last minute rushing of assignments has been eliminated completely. I am reading on space, power,  race, politics, anthropology, digital technology, and social relations. And this is not even part of my course work. I am also listening to podcast lectures on modern social theories while walking to school and back. I finally know what Locke said, what Hobbes meant by the ‘state of nature’, the genesis of ‘separation of powers’. More remains, but I think it is terribly exciting to see the tremendous impact of these ideas on modern day systems of government and society. Most importantly, I finally know how to pronounce Montesquieu.

This was day before yesterday. And then it rained.

There are many reasons why growing up sucks. Taxes, I guess, is the primary reason. Weak knees is another. My problem is the fact that I can no longer get wet in the rain. When I was in college, one had a phone to worry about before stepping in the rain. Now it’s an expensive phone (recently purchased mind you) and a laptop. That means I have to always carefully consider any decision pertaining to rains, walking, unhindered wetting, and my general unpreparedness with water protection.

This particular evening I decided to leave the library, with the sole intention of coming back, cooking dinner, and calling it a night with this very post. However, I ended up buying dinner, getting drenched, and cooking lunch for the next day instead. I also managed to forget my glasses at the food store. As the realization, along with partial blindness hit me, I thought, ” Well I was smart. I have a spare pair. Well done me!”. I unpacked the new pair and hastily put it on.

My vision didn’t change, nor did the headache go away. It was then that I realized that my frames had no glass in it. The frame had broken. And just like that, within 15 mins, I went from 2 pairs to 0 functional pairs.

 I laughed.

Si

PS: This post is dedicated to the thoughtful employees of the shop where I forgot my original pair. This was written with perfect (assisted) vision, and all errors are a consequence of my klutzery, and nothing else.

PPS: I quite like the admin staff. They are extremely sweet, and supremely helpful. Please do excuse my rant.