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)


Post colonisis

city, study, trains, travel

Hey hey hey,

I am in London.

Everything is so damn quirky and strange.

There is so much history here: owned, borrowed, stolen. But it’s here, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Its overwhelming at times, the sheer number and geography of destinies  which sprung forth and contorted themselves to the notes emerging from this city. This is true for my parents, and theirs before that, as it is for millions around the world.

Meanwhile, I spend my days in a library reading 18th century texts. It’s quite enjoyable, once you get used to the circuitous writing style, which is also unnecessarily polite. I occasionally take time out to dig out manuscripts pertaining to my home town and any information I can find on it. Apparently I have descended from ‘heathen’ ‘aboriginals’.

I am exceedingly tired today , and can’t even think of a half decent point for writing this, if not for its own sake. Nor do I have a profound observation about the city.  Except perhaps how well dressed everyone is, and how I feel like a potato here. It’s annoying that I can’t ever dress well, or care to.

Finally, I think all women everywhere are beautiful.  And fabulously better at most things. But before I go, a special mention about the women here.  I  struggle to frame this  delicately, trying to balance  between sounding appreciative while not seeming flippant: but these striking visions of beauty I can but be grateful for, and hope they realize they are so.
Ok they possibly do. And I can’t be poetic to save my life. And this just sounds all wrong.

Now I sleep. More history awaiteth tomorrow.

S

P. S.  I am already seeing regular faces in the Tube. 

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.

Happppieee New……..Meh

america, college, philadelphia, study

Hey,

I have been meaning to write about the end-of-the-break blues. But no time to do that. No time to complain either. I am dying. Dying with work I absolutely love doing.  If only there was more time.

More time. That is all I need. I am reading very new stuff after all.

See you around.

Si

P.S. I experienced my first snowfall. Actualement, it was a blizzard, and I survived it quite well.

P.P.S All this ‘find something you love, and let it kill you’ bogger is rubbish. It truly is. I have found love in all that I am doing now (except this one course with numbers in it). And I can reliably inform you that there is no joy in this pain. None.

P.P.P.S: I don’t do crushes very well. No one does I reckon. I turn into a bumbling 17 year old who forgets English, messes up muscle movements, and occasionally charts new pathways just to avoid the person in question. I had forgotten about the girl I have a crush on. Almost completely. As I spent my winter break growing fat, my general nervousness and self-doubt had faded into obscurity. Till my friend reminded me last week. She still exists! And still looks as stunning as always. I dont think I will ever speak to her, that is assuming she doesn’t hate me already (because, you know, why not?).

Time to find even more circuitous ways to walk around campus.

 

 

 

 

Hi

america, college, cycle, philadelphia, study, Uncategorized

Hi.

Alive I am. Semester be ending soon. Late I am on many things. Girls I have spoken to none. Girls I have fancied many. Things I have learnt plenty. Wedding I have skipped one.  Laughs I have missed many. Wanted to write I have much. Ideas I have had Nein. Cycle I have ridden some. Cooking I have started yum. Looking forward to the break, I um I um. 

 

See you then.

 

Si

 

 

P.s. I finally had turkey. It tastes like chicken, on steroids. Also, I still dont know what makes Americans laugh. Sigh

.

America 101

america, Life, study, travel

This will be a longish one.

It has been two weeks since my last post, and it feels like I haven’t written in a long long  time. Which means I miss writing. That is good. But then again, it has been 9 days since classes started, and it feels as if I have been doing this for months. Which means fuckall. And that the course load may kill me.

I guess that’s what America does to you. There was a girl once who had a thing for a boy. The intensity of this thing could be comfortably described as being somewhere between Dante’s Inferno and the brick oven at your friendly-neighbourhood-joe’s-pizza. However, it didn’t work out, at all, and she went to the US. What I find surprising is how she managed to keep those feelings intact for a full year. Its downright impressive. I don’t even know who the Indian President is anymore ;/

Before the mood of this post starts scrapping the proverbial bottom, I will tell you about my eventful first 10 hours in this great country. Upon landing, I apprehensively approached the customs. Barring vindaloo, I didn’t particularly care about them throwing anything else. However, the notion of deportation hovers in and around your head with alarming frequency in America. In the end, they let everything pass, except the rice. The only person affected by this was my mother. But I had known how the day was going to unfold, I would have kissed the officer’s feet for reducing my load.

From there I walked; to a train, to another train, to a cab, and finally to my new house. Between starting to walk and reaching my house, I tripped twice, banged against train doors (four times at least), met a peculiar man from Knoxville (or Nashville, couldn’t tell), Tennessee who decided to tell me about a female co-passenger who passed out on his shoulder and proceeded to unload copious amounts of drool, spoke to random old men who told me I drank too much water, and competed for longest flight time with my cab driver (he was from Nigeria). Till this point, I was fairly okay. Random shit had happened, but most of it was funny (slightly exhausting), and I was acting as awkward as people in a new land ought to. But the day wouldn’t have been complete without at least one, funny in retrospect, but scary when experienced, incident.

I think being stranded outside my own house, on my very first day, wins that one.

My phone network was dead. My flatmate, after waiting for my call, eventually left for work. And I found me, myself, and a whole lot of luggage (46+14 kgs) sitting on the street. This is probably the first time I realized that this was not my country. Faces on the road, when spotted, didn’t look familiar. The bass beats from an occasional approaching car would be strangely reminiscent of south Delhi roads, but would immediately clarify my confusion with hooks which go,’gotta get them monies, beeches and wanting me some dollarsss..’ (terribly paraphrased, possibly entirely wrong).

It was a very surreal hour. I must admit, I have sat, even slept, on a street before. But every single time I have been fairly confident about how the street would smell, the sounds around me, or whether a cop would be coming along to shoo me away. This felt very alien. Even technology failed me. The comfort of knowing my precise-to-god location on google maps was no comfort at all. Eventually, I grew too tired to feel anything. But I couldn’t sit outside in the dark, and so I dragged my luggage on the Streets of Philadelphia to the closest coffee shop. I had the most expensive tea of my life ($5! For a tea!), and contacted my flatmate. Finally, I reached home, full 10 hours after landing in this country, and crashed..

It has been 2 and 1/2 weeks since I’ve been here. Feels like months, but time is as time does. On my second day, I came back home to find the bed missing. Apparently it belonged to the previous tenant.So I made very uncomfortable love to the wodden floor for 9 days, till the mattress arrived. Also, no one here (except my flatmates, and the International student center) understands what I am saying. So my American adventure will be not only be a test of my academic grit, but also a testimony to the enduring power of good enunciation and slow speech.

I must say this before I forget; no amount of pop-culture can prepare you for America. I thought it would be a smooth transition; american-show-watching-pop-culture-consuming-internet-fellow that I am. Very wrong also I am. There is so much here that you know about, and so much more that no shows/books will ever tell you about. And the six most salient things I have noticed so far are: sheer amount of material choice in this country,how much people throw away, the stark difference in the type of food consumed by different communities, how no one ever seems to almost run into another person while walking on the street, lack of stray dogs, and the exceptional resilience of eggs. The first and second I shall not belabor. The fourth and fifth need a separate post, and third I am not qualified to comment on. There also needs to be a post about my trip(s) to New York, visiting an emergency room at 2 am, and general observations about life as such.

But the last point is most pertinent.

You know how you see half fried eggs being made on TV? You know how you try replicate those beauties at home, and fail spectacularly? Do not be harsh on thyself. It isn’t you, it’s the eggs. But the eggs here! OH MY GOD! They are phenomenal. They really are. No matter how badly you handle them in the pan, they are immune to all external klutzery! Full fucking egg, perfectly yellow, perfectly warm for your sweet succulent consumption. It’s amazing. I am eating 3 eggs a day, only to see if I end up bursting the yolk. None so far.

I haven’t written about my junior college yet. Everyone who knows me has heard the story (at least) twice. But I think I will write it in bits and pieces through multiple posts, to prevent over-kill. Any how, when I entered college, 10 years ago, it was the most stressful my life had ever been. I didn’t speak enough English, had no experience speaking to girls, and knew none of the popular references the kids were talking about (this is true; I thought Eminem was a Doctor, and his last name was Dre). Slowly this changed, till I reached a point where I spoke to everyone, knew all of the references, and was a bit of a douche to my old friends. This eventually got sorted out. But my point is, when I entered college 10 years ago, I felt very very out of place, and supremely conscious of my being in a new space. I haven’t felt like that since. Until now. Perhaps I will write about this in the next post.

This is not to say that I am doing well here. I am struggling with very small things. But there is progress.The campus is beautiful, everyone walks, and I genuinely enjoy all my classes. I am learning a lot of new things, and a bit of the old as well. I will eventually make friends, and will dread the idea of weekends. I look forward to incrementally setting up my room. I have to frame and put up the gift K and C gave me before they visit 🙂

The night sky here is different as well. Also, every time you look up, one can see either a plane or a trail of smoke left by a jet plane. When I was young, I used to imagine being that pilot, cutting across the sky, leaving smoke in my wake, and the insignificant world reduced to a blurred reflection on my visors (I blame Top-gun, and Swat Kats). It is comforting to know that if I am every bummed out, I could just look up. I have grand cycling plans, which I hope materialize, and I hit the coast before the long winter. I also hope to not fuck up my exams/assignments, and possibly for the first time in my life, strive to do well in them. How I actually do, remains to be seen.

There is progress on the house-keeping front as well. Today I figured out how a dishwasher works. Before that, there was a projector, and before that, window blinds. Yesterday, I faced-off an exceptionally well-fed possum over the trash-can. I don’t quite know what a possum is. But it felt very American. One day soon, I will figure out why they have 5 bulbs in their bathrooms, refer to their petrol as ‘gas’, have 6 types of floor cleaners, and follow the diabolically confusing imperial system of measurement.

12 inches to 1 Foot
3 Feet to 1 Yard
So far so good…
1760 yards/5280 feet to 1 mile! 
Who decided this? Seriously, who?

Si

PS: My official name for the next 4 years (assuming I don’t get deported) shall be my first and middle name. Why? More on that in the next post.

PPS: I am not really sad. Here, take nice looking pictures

Last weekend of summer

Last weekend of summer

Not so New York picture of New York

Not so New York picture of NewYork

46 kgs and above

alone, america, study, travel

I begin to write this just as the plane is about to take off.  That makes me the only douche to whip out his laptop before being airborne. Also, I think this post should have been written at the airport, en route to the airport, while packing, while considering when to pack, while having a very emotional conversation with my parents about upholding perfectly acceptable family values and exercising sound financial judgment. Writing would have been preferable to all of the above. While being fairly necessary, all of the aforementioned activities happened to be significantly depressing, and sufficiently discomforting. Except packing. Packing I hate. And the hatred stems from very dark and unexplored depths of my heart, mind, soul, and kidneys.

This should ideally be divided into two parts; first chronicling the entirety of my experiences in feeling immense love from people around me, how uncomfortable it made me, the sadness of leaving teary-eyed parents back home, and the second one hating packing. But since I am told that flights with alcohol are entertaining and you can watch movies for free, I am going to conflate the two and make the most of my time here.

To finish off the people part first. I met a lot of people in the last 240 hours. I love these people. I grew up with them, in a manner of speaking. I have made memories with them, in a manner of literally. They seemed genuinely sad that I was leaving. They expressed it in a lot of words, and hugs. That was touching. Tears were shed and I did cry once. Okay, twice. And this was just Delhi! Bombay was like a drug induced emotional roller coaster. See. Pack. Meet. Pack. Greet. Pack. Goodbye. Pack. Done.  *Insert heavy doses of melancholy  between every stage.

And that was the humane part.

Then there are my diabolic bags.

I am carrying two suitcases. Two whole i-am-moving-to-another-country-I-have-indian-stamped-all over the contents-bags.  And that makes me very sad. I am yet to be hit by the fact that I am actually leaving my country, for another country, for a long time, to do stuff which I may fuck-up. And all of this I have no real control over. I mean sure I can work hard and have a higher chance of not-fucking up, but you know what I am talking about right?  In that case, I would like to believe that the only thing I could have any say in would be what I decide to take with me when I make this transition. Simple right? I sure as hell thought so.

Apparently, it is far more complicated than that.

Packing involves very real and nuanced decisions. Decisions about what is it that you own/will purchase, that you truly value enough to carry with you. Why do you need to carry it? Can this really not be substituted by anything else that markets provide there? Is being economical the only reason for this concerted effort to cram in every last bit of allowable weight (this is true.  I wish you could see the complicated calculus applied to weight division, optimal spread of objectionable food products, and the ideal response strategy when confronted by amused customs officials), or is there a nostalgia associated with all that you carry? I don’t know. My mother thinks that the Americans, with over 300 years of Independence, are yet to figure what ought to constitute a decent meal. This is clearly not true. I hope.

Packing becomes an additional headache, when it assumes the form of a community problem. Consensus building measures are therefore required to arrive at a societally acceptable list of things which represent; all that you need, all that you are, all that you will be; food wise. Needless to say, there is a mass mobilization resources to ensure creation of commodities which markets can’t provide for. Or can they?

Why do I have a problem with this? I don’t really, as long as you do it with you own bag. I do appreciate the concern, I really do. I also acknowledge the appreciation of my financial constraints as a student, the idea of convenience, and a need to create a familiar space in an otherwise alien environment. All of this is fine and perfectly acceptable. However, this comfort is slightly disconcerting  for me. A friend of mine (two of them in fact) commented how my luggage weighed about the same as them! Apart from the fact that I have way too many thin friends, it disturbed me that I was carrying enough to constitute an entire person. An actual person! How does this not bother anyone that you need (absolutely need) to carry enough to make another person? The amount of baggage  you carry, in my opinion, should always be non-tangible. This is far more important than the tastes you crave. At least to me, food is replaceable, convenience and maneuverability isn’t. The less you carry, the less you are responsible for.

Now all of this could be because I genuinely worry about cleaning the stuff I own, actively avoid responsibility, and would like to live with as little as possible. I also like the feeling of walking out of an airport with nothing but a bag-pack and a sliver of smugness. Just slightly.  Oh also! Another reason I feel uncomfortable with all of the preparation for foreign travel is the inherent disdain and inferiority associated with the culture of the destination country. While I am not qualified to comment on the objective ranking of any culture or society, to say that an entire people have no culture or lack culture simply because it is not similar to yours is downright unacceptable.  And food becomes the vanguard of manifesting this belief, that if you are retain your source-culture, always remember where you come from. Never forget. And not forgetting may involve both passive provision of source materials, as well as active avoidance of new experiences.

I may just hate this new country. I may come to love it. I have no idea. But I may as well give it a chance, eat new food while my body allows it, and add to my list of lived experiences. I wont be 26 and in a new country again. Ever. And if I am going to be here and now only once, I don’t want to be eating that which I grew up on. I’d rather eat more and feel more. And if I can ever reach a stage where I can realistically even compare different foods, cultures, and societies on some common parameters, I would have a good story to tell.

Meanwhile, strange things have begun happening on this  flight. I have kids in front. Abhay deol is in an air safety video. So is Rajeev Khandelwal.  Everyone on the crew looks positively disinclined to the idea of smiling, and I am fast hurtling into a long night (from east to west) towards my first jet lag. Someone just ran across the aisle yelling for a doctor. Apparently a passenger is ill. I hope it isn’t anything serious. I am still in Bombay, and it seems, will be for a while.

Si

PS (0210 hrs): My bags weighed 48 kgs in all, and I was let off with a knowing look from a very ambivalent lady behind the counter. She probably clears far too many students carrying that extra kilo of Indian sweets.  Also, my plane didn’t take off for another 50 minutes.

PPS (0244 hrs): The plane still hasn’t taken off. Now I am worried about the health of the person in question.

PPPS (0258 hrs): Overheard from an elderly gentleman: a child with malaria was brought onboard. His fever went very high and started convulsing, and hence the clamour for a doctor. Thankfully (and the first part is legit) it happened before being airborne, otherwise the flight would have to be diverted to save the child’s life, and the plane would have had to dump all its fuel, since (apparently) it can’t land with a full fuel tank. This may not be the best time to point out that the gentleman saying this seemed just a little bit too excited about saying  ‘offload fuel tanks’ and ‘divert flight’. Mansplaining at 3 in the morning 🙂

I am glad the kid is okay though. And now we fly. And now I end. Bye.

PPPPS: I saw it! I fucking saw it!

My seat was uncomfortable, and the jack for the headphone slot was loose. So I watched three movies back to back with my thumb holding the headphones in place. And as I was about to drift into a rather uncomfortable sleep, I saw the in-flight map. Our route was charted out, and it was a damn interesting one. We were flying over Moscow, parts of northern Europe, close to Iceland, and then over Canada. I did not sleep at all. I don’t know why they keep the shutters closed. The wonder of seeing these lands, with all their history, references in popular culture and possibility of never seeing them all was enough to keep me awake to catch but a glimpse of it all. Here are a few pictures.

SO MUCH VIKING FEEEL!

SO MUCH VIKING FEEEL!

Europe's End.

Europe’s End.

Land fall into North America

Land fall into North America