My Dear Country

Long have I dwelt who I write for. Is it for the bong none of us know we are, the shamefaced legacy of a colonial one night stand? Is it for you who I hate for the same reasons I hate myself? Is it for the blood on tabletops and silver iodide on the sidewalks of my hometown? Or the delinquent who gives a damn as long as it buys her another shot?

Long have I dwelt why I write. Is it to flash my "perverse, incongruous, absurd, forbidden" innards at craven corporate netajis, their wobbly craven spouses and pretty craven babies? Is it to somehow make the mundane seem heroic? Is it to honor my ancestors, to keep you from judging me by my seeming lack of politics or literacy? Is it to help you decide that you really do need that optical whitener?

The greatness that comes from peoples painted black or white or green or saffron is an illusion. All ideologies are a waste of time when all you need is optical whitener. What you really achieve is the desolation that every Agent Smith knows but cannot acknowledge. The wealth of cultures ground down to the glorious globalized spam we all create and consume, like blog posts, like vacation selfies (more of the miracle that is me), like bestsellers racks in an Indian bookstore (if you are reading this when you need to look up what a bookstore is, thank your stars you still can read).

The Medicine Of Language

Recently, my alter ego, the Khan who must not be shamed, used the analogy of the typewriter to emphasize the importance of diligence. The evolution of the movable type is easily one of the greatest leaps that mankind has ever made, comparable to the invention of the wheel or the taming of fire. One would have thought that the journey from printed books to instant real time self publishing (like Facebook updates or blogposts or digital journalism) would somewhere set minds free and take civilization to its next pinnacle.

The story of corruption, intolerance and bigotry in the year 2017 seems to indicate otherwise. Somewhere in this amazing journey, the true value of information has been sacrificed at the alter of commerce and power. One wonders what Plato or Socrates (or Auden or Lennon) would have done with Twitter for example. Not what Trump or Chetan Bhagat are doing, for sure. The journey from wooden block printing to digital printing took 1700 years, while the journey from electronic  printing to virtual self publishing on the Internet took less than 10 years!! The shift from hand written to block printed text was driven by religious mandate (the need for uniform transmission of teachings of Buddhism in China), whereas the explosion of social media was driven by technology and commerce. Alvin Toffler ascribed it to the pace of human evolution and highlighted the dangers that lie behind such rapid change.

Our worlds are changing, dictated by commerce and government policies (think Reliance, think 3D-printed guns, think cloud-based streaming audio and video, think demonetization, think self-driving cars, think Russian election hacks), but our minds are several decades if not centuries behind. Public relations and advertising are the best places to see this in action. Whether it be for consumer goods, political figures or ideologies, most advertising tickles our baser instincts, greed, gender politics, tribalism, aggression, violence, etc. And it works like a charm; a multi-billion dollar industry will vouch for that.

Your Burtons From Your Nolans

Reboots wipe memories down, start things afresh, freeing one to build things up the way he or she would like, unfettered by the landscape of the past. To leave the warts out and wipes kisses off the brow. To forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. Ten years since this jejune diet rebooted, a fine artefactual mist obscures what I set out to say. Prescient most days, but some mornings, I squint to even recall what I set out to say.

Ten years, mourning the death of poetry, of mother and child, of civility and integrity in public life, clinging on to beliefs that the world scoffs at. Ten years of unexplained context to what one reads. Worsened by adjunct imagery.

10 Things That Did Not Make Me Hit Publish in 2016

Nothing works like lists. How about 10 things that did not make me hit publish this year so far? Now that I check, nothing made me hit publish this year; the last post here was in December 2015. I hear the sigh of gladness followed by the thud of ground reality as you realize the respite was short-lived. 

My new sleep cycle

I began this year with a sleep schedule of less than 4 hours a day, and sleeping after the call to Fajr prayers. It took me over six months to get my waking schedule to where I could manage 5-6 hours, but again, during the day. My love for all things narcos extends to the mothership herself, and my struggles to optimize rest and productive time make for a whole series of posts. But every time I found time to write, I chose to sleep. Hitting publish didn't even show up in my dreams.

Our new home

 We moved out of Punjagutta after 8 years. Those 8 years were something if nothing else. We ended 2015 closing down many of the things we had worked on for years, and chose to move to the outskirts, to escape the pollution and water shortage in the city center. We found a place we liked, scraping our budget, but as fate would have it, life determined we needed to stay in the area. We had less than two weeks to find another place, one that had to meet several requirements, including proximity to work, water and air quality. Madhavi, Devank and I turned gypsy again as we scouted places. We found one with a few days to spare, just enough for the landlord to put a few essential finishing touches. It is a wonderful, airy, bright, welcoming place, and we did all we could think of (and afford) to make it ready for Mom and Dad. I thought of writing about this, but we wanted Mom and Dad to see it first.

Beef. With. Beef.

To make up for the absence of the traditional November post, here is a fabricated one.


Hearing about revolts against a state chief by someone reportedly planning to hop party lines to join another state chief who enjoys food as long as it is oily, spicy and meat with lashings of beverage to wash it down with. Even when fasting for good causes. The catch is that the issue in question is beef. The trouble is that beef as in cow slaughtered for purpose of eating or making belts and wallets out of is legally permitted only in a few states out of the many in the country. This makes the entire furore over beef eating as an offense in states with strict laws and highly regulated animal slaughter industries somewhat self defeating if not clearly fabricated, from the perspectives of religion as well as animal rights. And we haven’t started talking about carbon yet. Or the plaque in our collective arteries. But then, sitting in the city of pearls and politesse, where kebab, biryani, roti and a tala hua are the order of the day, beef with beef gets beefy sometimes.

I wholeheartedly support the movement against beef. If we all can take this brave step of ridding our selves of complaints and grievances, we will be creating a truly wonderful world. What way better to do this than by making having beef (or being the cause for someone else to have beef) punishable? This will be executed by a futuristic, Minority-Reportish thought police. I’m guessing.

Social media flotsam. (Don't know who took this picture but will be glad to credit if you let me know. )

So you wake up in the morning, realize it is Monday, and woosh! Charged under section so and so for having beef, first with the boss, then with all of commerce, and then with his own wife in the early hours of... Or you look at your tax calculations, and excuse me, that was like an admission to a few decades of beef. Off we go. To that which is and that which may yet be.

Other than beef with beef as something not befitting a nonviolent compassionate way of life, I have big beef with a whole other lot of things. Other than beef with beef that is. And carbon and grilled food. Resistance to low-rise urban expansion for example. Apathy that government after government display towards basic welfare of the people. Intrusion of commerce into your dinnertime television and your morning dump.

Paris 13/11

Days when all a poet can do is not enough
Dreams, leaves and blame best left to hawks
Bells toll you haven’t done what you meant to do
What you were meant to do. All a poet.

You and I our dawn-staggered lives
You and I unname ungodly names
You and I our million things to hide
And a million commercial breaks.

Pointless censure, pointless remorse
Pointless parade of muddied souls
Condemned condemning themselves
An important hurtful circus. All a poet.

(A tribute to all the world leaders who so eloquently responded to the 13/11 Paris Terror Attack)

New, Improved, Same Old Art

Sunday mornings, up with the lark, photographing my latest crop of paintings, drinking mystic tea, and waiting for Dev to wake up and take over everything. My third set is ready to set sail. Do let me know what you think of them.

Devil King of the Sixth Heaven 2015, 8" x 10" Oil on Canvas, unmounted

Mara has been called the devil king of the sixth heaven in the teachings of Shakyamuni and the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. The sixth heaven is the ultimate selfish manifestation of desire, or the Heaven of Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, and its ruler delights in manipulating others to submit to his will. In my pursuit of art, it also pertains to the resistance to paint or draw or write for that matter. In Buddhism, devils indicate those functions that block or hinder people’s efforts to complete their Buddhist practice, including propagating the teachings.

Man, Child and Door 2015, 8" x 11" Oil on Canvas, unmounted

The last two years have been the most wonderful time of our lives, with each other and with the coming of Dev. It has been a time of doors - opening, closing, as our inner landscapes evolve. We have been fortunate to be able to spend all our time together over this time, and many a times, the canvas and the brush would decide that is what it wanted to become.

Self Portrait 2015, 8" x 10" Oil on Canvas, unmounted

Studying art marketing with my agent has been fun, fun, fun. It turns out Buddha faces are the easiest to sell. But then, I don't have a clue what Buddha looked like beyond the one I see every morning in the mirror.

View of Tirumala Hills 2015, 10" x 8" Oil on Canvas, board-mounted

I am an out and out Tirupati obsessive, I love the place, the energy and the healing nature all around. This time, I quickly made notes of what I was seeing and tried to paint it.

Windows Vista 2015, 8" x 11" Pencil and Ink on Paper, unmounted
My homage to the information highway, online holiday planning, the Hyderabad metro rail, and to all 50 million plus displaced people (not counting the pigeons of course) on this planet who wonder what their next step should be.

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