(Pic by Sahar Z)

In this life I am Christopher Columbus. Reversing the tide of history. Navigating the rough seas of knowledge and confusion. Sailing in search of an undiscovered ancestor. Actually an ancestral landmass. The original America. The land of myths and tales of maverick travellers and nautical thrill-seekers. A land so rich, so abundantly endowed with all kinds of organic gifts, superlative inventions and ideas of transcendence that its real appearance would blind the eye and cause the jaw to drop in disbelief. An alchemist's dream where base metals were golded and gold served as garnish on food. For currency they used a peculiar form of goodwill, exchanged each time with a broad shining smile. It was a vague transaction where worth and value are intuitively fixed and carried over. In the belief that goodness and virtue were realisable in the afterlife. In the realm of hard-nosed, non-abstractionist discourse this land was actually a no-land. For 'land' by verbic definition described a touch-down on solid ground. And this land was too other-worldly for that. It was proto-utopic, meaning it existed even before the word became a word.

It was also a land of mixed identities. Mixed orthodoxies. Surfacely mixed but unified at the centre. No one really had original claims to this land. Everyone had been 'new here' some time or the other. This land had an enormous capacity to absorb: peoples, cultures, languages, beliefs and DNA. And mixing was necessary. As some early Zoroastrians smartly suggested, it was like mixing sugar in milk. Numerous languages were spoken in this land. Numerous customs co-existed, like electricity cables meeting at infinity or never. Numerous gods were prayed to every morning at its temples and altars. There was also, as St. Paul discovered in the city of Corinth, an altar to an unknown god. A god of the future, as yet unmanifest and discarnate, probably serving time in another universe, another galaxy.

This land had a strange effect on anyone who came here. Conqueror, exile, escapee, refuge-seeker, wanderer-everyone who came here was touched and transformed by a primeval electricity that crackled in the air. Something like that early lightening that forced matter and spirit to produce life on earth.

So where was this land? A bit of 'back-tracking' will show you where. This land is the grand precedent of America, the 'New World' of Columbus. The land of milk and honey and opportunity for those dissatisfied with their Old World status quos. America is today a patchwork quilt. Of white, black, yellow, brown and also sometimes little green men and women.

But the America of today is not the original. We all know that it was discovered accidentally. Discovered while looking for the Indies, the mythical and elusive Gold Bird. A proto-Utopia of diversity and yet strangely a unified hole, a cipher bubbling with transcendent wisdom. And to this ancient Gold Bird I, as Christopher Columbus, dedicate this post.

Here's to India, the original America!
Two roaches. One fed on bidi ends. The other fed with green vegetables. One born in the wash basin. The other in the kitchen sink. Both lived one cockroach lifetime. The bidi-ends one grew big, fattened up. He also got a hump on his back. But all his life he stayed in the wash basin. Never leaving it. Never learning the joy of flying.

The kitchen sink one grew big. Grew bigger wings and flew out of the sink. The bidi-ends one remained stoned in the wash basin. Thinking often of flying but never really flying. The kitchen sink one never thought... but he flew and flew and flew.

Till he hit a wall and died. The bidi-ends one died peacefully in his sleep.

--These were the results of an experiment carried out by Mahadev, friend and disciple of Lamarck.
(Pic: Sahar Z)
How the hell did they SPEAK this language?
It is the end of an important season in Brotherpur. And the beginning of another: the season of sobriety and fasting. It is a time when the lolling cows are swarmed by armies of mosquito-pilgrims. They have arrived fresh from the drying swamps nearby.

The mosquitoes have come for their annual bovine Eucharist.

This is the time when the dark swamps of sewage overflow have begun to sink into the earth. Like colour from a chameleon's skin. The colour of the new season is dirty green. More dirty than green.

Sandwiched between two dirty greens is Ring Road, tar-black, and in parts, grey with dustings of yellow earth. Ring Road is not like the other roads of Brotherpur.

Ring Road is Brotherpur's new, improved jugular.

And it sniggers at those who have no use for it. It sniggers at the old and the ancient who hang over Brotherpur. It sniggers in its many motor voices and its many changes of skin colour.

Ring Road is fast speed and upward movement.

The infrequent silences of Ring Road are filled by laughter from Budge House. Budge House too sniggers in many voices. Many colours.

Budge House is the house of laughing birds.

The budgerigars at Budge House laugh a lot.

Budge House is also Blue House for it is blue, like navy blue. Not military green but navy blue. The budgerigars are under military rule. A teeth-coloured plaque names the owner of Budge House. He is an RETD. LT. COL., a man abbreviated and exed by his employer of over 40 years.

The RETDLTCOL is also called 'Miltree Sir' by those who work for him.

Miltree Sir's five dogs, one of them a trained-to-kill Rampur hound, have very low tolerance for Balloon Man.

Balloon Man passes Budge House everyday at 12 noon on his creaky old Atlas cycle. He doesn't use Ring Road because he thinks he isn't fast enough for it. He only uses Ring Road's folded-arm of a service lane.

Listen to him. Here he comes… 'Namaskar. This is All Indi-ya-ya Radio.'

He is never late. 'It's five seconds past 12 O…'

The budgerigars have stopped laughing. 'This is A.I.R.'s Brotherpur Service…'

What colour balloons has he got today? 'A duet by Lata Mangeshkar and…'

Can we choose? 'From the film…'

The blue, pink and white one for boy who's just turned two. A whistle for the snotty girl. A winking mask for the…

'The song has been requested by Pup-poo and his mother and his friends Bub-loo, Pin-key, Chee-knee and Good-do from…'

Lay-jow, lay-jow bail-loon lay-jow.

The Balloon man is singing his 'take-away' song. Miltree Sir's dogs have also joined in. With their clenched teeth and angry snarls they are following Balloon Man and his bicycle as they cross Budge House. Balloon Man's bicycle is covered with a huge rubber and plastic veil. There are guns, bugles, horns, wind-up cars, TVs with scrolling screens, whistles and dumroos. Long wavy balloons trail over him like Medusa hair.

'Phishoeeow… phishhh'.

'This is All Indi-ya-ya Radio's Brotherpur Service. And now the news headlines in English…'

People match their clocks to Balloon Man's arrival. He's only missed once, since he started business at Ring Road.

The Ring Road has teeth. They are white and rock-solid. The white rocks show only at the edges, where the road grins. Its gums are dusty patches of grass. Clearings in the grass are filled with water and moss. When the moss breathes tiny bubble domes appear on the surface of the dirty green water.

People like Balloon Man get hurt when they get too close to Ring Road. Balloon Man knows this from painful experience. A twisted ankle and a twisted wrist. And five bicycle wheel spokes in his back like Bhishma Pitamah's. That was the only time Balloon Man missed work. And missed it sorely for a whole week!

Ring Road had leapt at him like a hidden muggermuch. Balloon Man still doesn't know what really happened that day. He thinks his bicycle slipped on a clearing of moss and water. He thinks he is 'accidental' because of his stars. But in truth it was the new, improved Brotherpur getting its back on the old.
(All pix by Me; Rearview one by Alwyn S)
In Brotherpur it is still fashionable for cows to rest on brown gobar pillows. It's a sign that the spirit of Brotherpur lives on. It's also a sign of eternity. Anyone who has lived and ambled on the wide streets of Brotherpur once lives forever. It is said that anyone who has lived in Brotherpur comes back, at least once.

Such is the magic of Brotherpur.

Before us Brotherpur was inhabited by the royals. They still hang around here. Some people think they are dead inside fish-reliefed mausoleums. Forgotten as road and park names. But the royals of Brotherpur live on the streets like the common people. In Brotherpur everyone is a royal.

The royal 'we' is still used here.

This is not the beginning of Brotherpur but as beginnings go it is as good as any.

In our beginning Queen Mother Jennet Alia dies of acute Easternitis. She had just met Queen Prictoria of In-Gland.

In-Gland at that time was a tiny island off mainland Kurupa, but it was growing like a blowfish. It was almost about to swallow Brotherpur, twice its size, insanely rich and uniquely cut off from In-Gland. These obviously were not separations enough for In-Gland's monster appetite.

Queen Mother Jennet Alia went to In-Gland on a ship loaded with gifts and grand illusions. She was expecting to be heard-and not seen-by the curious Prictoria.

But Brotherpur was fast running out of its fat load of luck.

It is believed Jennet Alia's cover came in the way. Prictoria couldn't get across to Jennet Alia.

The veiled Jennet Alia died veiled in firangi Faries after a dream where she was eating cherries. It is said she died of shock. Because in the dream she was not smoking her favourite hooka pipe. She was also unveiled and 'undressed' Prictorian style-in glass jewellery and umbrella skirt-for a white portrait maker.

Today Jennet Alia sits unveiled on a cheap ancient-marble stool below a cheap ancient-marble cherub 'n' cherry canopy in faraway Faries, right behind the famous I-fell Tower. Reduced to cheap ancient-marble her kingdom is now an eight-by-twelve canopy in firangi Faries.

Her Hotheadedness, Begum Has-rut Moll, arch consort of the Dancing King of Brotherpur, His Majesty Nawab Watched All-ye Saw, fought In-Gland's incursion like a tigress. But she was naïve about war. She was hounded out of her beloved Brotherpur.

On her way out she was pierced with cheap pig-iron blade-guns on the orders of the Beast Indi-ya-ya Company of In-Gland.

Till very recently, Begum Has-rut Moll was a huge and dusty park where loud speakers snarled amid gassy arena noises. Today Begum Has-rut Moll is a jogger's park.

The fat Dancing King of Brotherpur lived, as a live Beast Indi-ya-ya mascot, in the Beast Indi-ya-ya-ruled Bend-all.

There he was fattened to fit a new line of Indi-ya-ya cotton shrouds the Company had designed for the local rulers.

The last King of Brotherpur breathed his last in a spacious In-Glish-style bungalow.

There Watched All-ye-saw penned his favourite dance-songs. And danced his favourite Cattock dance.

Some say the fat Watched All-ye Saw cattocked to death.

Like the apocalypse Shiva, he finally danced on the debris of his own creations.

But little has changed in the new improved Brotherpur. It is said that the spirit of Watched All-ye Saw still hangs over Brotherpur like an invisible cumulus.

Several notches above, in another invisible cumulus lives Lushman, a.k.a. The Bro, Brotherpur's founder king. The Bro had given up his father's kingdom to serve his brother in the jungle. But when all was well in the family the brother gave him the boot. So lonely and dejected Lushman started walking. And walking he stumbled upon Brotherpur. But he couldn't enjoy the fruits of his reign. Lushman began drinking heavily.

And soon Lushman also died of acute Easternitis. Heart-broken and misunderstood like the Queen Mother Jennet Alia.

Today the kingdom of Brotherpur has shrunk to a municipality. The district of Brotherpur. The capital of You Pee. But the spirit of Brotherpur lives on.

Especially among its resting cows.
(Pic by Keshav C)

Staring down at a not-so-vast expanse of green
wondering whether the way shown
by the branches
actually leads somewhere...
In one word
the world is FLAT
In one world
the word is flat
In one flat
the world is broken
down and laid out
in the drawing room
as mantel pieces.
In one piece
the drawing room
is a mirror of
those that draw
from it.
In one draw
of breath the mirror
is misted and confused.
In one confusion
everything is found.

--Written today in one go as an ode to 1.
Tabo is one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh. But we didn't see it from inside. Entranced as we were by the Telugu film that was being shot there. It was a song where Anshika, the heroine was playing a sannyasin, and was being vigorously wooed by the hero, Bobby.

I watched about 5 takes of the same shot. And then I bid Tabo goodbye. Peace and quiet were not to be had amid such cacophony.

On the way out I saw the merry monks bonding with the women extras. And local girls posing for snazzy digi-cams.

The trip was good. But my mind is still a whirlpool... so I guess I'll keep the posts coming :)

Thank you all. Especially KM and Pareshan.
smoking weed
make ur tits


Someone googling with these words came to bodhishop...

just couldn't resist :)
Seven years is a long time. In mystic numerology it is also the number of completion. Coming full circle. Of godhood. Hard sense tells me not to read too much into this. But there is another part of me that cannot help but see the connections. The design.

In September 1999 I visited Ladakh for the first time. It was a trip that resulted in this and this and this and many other happy delusions.

It was an eye-opener of a trip. We biked from Delhi to Siachen Glacier. And biked back. In about 15 days. We were sore-backed but full of memories. It was in Ladakh that I saw a full moon the size of a blimp, emerge from behind a hill in Drass like a halo. I also had the fortune of riding along the grey Indus, a river that I believe defines us more as Indians than the Ganga. I saw the famous double-humped camel of Nubra Valley. I passed through the highest motorable pass: Khardung-La, our longest night crawling as we were in civilian trucks behind a convoy of Bofors guns. This was just a few days was after the Kargil War.

Now I am going to Ladakh once again. On Tuesday I start again for one of the most of mystical places on the planet. And I can't help but see this as a sign of some sort of completion. For the first time in my life, I am happy jobless. And moolah-less. I also have no direction in the ordinary sense of the word. I am between a lot of things. Feeling at times squeezed of ambition. So I travel once again. To Julleh-land. To Buddha-land.

In the same Buddhist metaphysical sense I am not sure whether I will return. Or if I will return as myself as I was, am and supposed to be.

In the same Buddhist metaphysical sense, I really dunno.

So in my I-dunno-ness I flow upwards in defiance of gravity and hard sense.

In my I-dunno-ness I will also touch the tip of the Roof of the World.

I also dunno whether I will continue with Bodhishop...

I hope you guys understand.

Thanks for stopping by. And talking.
(Pic by Sanjog S)

Can we have your smile please? The whole of yesterday was spent asking random people this question. Most agreed. Some didn't. Owing, I assume, to the faulty premise that a smile needs to be earned. And is not to be squandered on random people roaming the streets with a movie camera. But we didn't do too badly. The director of the shoot was a friend (left, in the picture) who is making this documentary on a friend of her's who lived in the thirteenth century.

Yes, a friend needn't be a flesh-and-blood somebody, who you meet daily. I believe a friend's largely a notion. A disembodied notion that resembles some part of your own self. Children often have imaginary friends. These friends are products of their being and display few differences from what they are themselves. As a result there's just no squabbling with these imaginary friends.

The evening before last was spent with another friend. And together we went pearl-hunting in the depths of the glorious confusion that we commonly know as Tantra. We were defending our two positions; he his academic fascination with the subject and me my mental empiricism around it.

The conversation telescoped late into the night with me insisting that the artist's search is in many ways like that of the tantrik and he sticking to his view that conflict is necessary for the creation of art (especially visual) and that resolution would mean an end of art. The conversation also forked into issues of duality and non-duality. Whether we are really blobs of individuated consciousness or whether we are all just one thing living under the illusion of separation. And whether true awareness is the realisation that everything is actually just ONE. God or Brahman or Nature, whatever you will.

The night before that the topic of discussion was tea. How brewing the exquisite Darjeeling leaves was a reflection of one's spiritual evolution. This is the strong belief of my other friend. That night I graduated (with honours) after years of tea-teachings shouted across the drawing room (also called Lounge 144) to me in the kitchen in his bid to make me a better person. That night I received the highest accolade from him in the form of this TeaTale:

Makes tea
For the friends
Gathered round him
Shares he
His self
Some tea
Little conversation
Some goodness
incandescent hope
tales of him as a rake
Maximum joy
Bit by bit
Hour by hour
Leaving life in his wake

Er… well that's me… according to him. Or him according to him as seen through me.

These past few days my mind has been on a romp with the Egyptian Girl. It's the tune that most of us first heard in Pulp Fiction where a brilliant guitar riff follows an equally brilliant 'and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya…'

Having obsessed over several downloaded versions of the Misirlou I have decided that my favourite is Rabbi Abulafia's liturgical one. What I find wickedly fascinating is that the ageing rabbi's breathless singing about an Egyptian Girl.

This post is also dedicated to Ms Denmark up there in the picture who promised to the read this space only if it mentioned her but who I see coming here pretty often :)

The flag-bearer wears khadi. White khadi cap. Khadi kurta. Khadi pyjamas. And rubber slippers, stiff and arthritic with age. Slung across his shoulder is a bag containing booklets and pamphlets produced on cheap blot-ink paper. His plastic-framed spectacles are also dusted with the space grime of a few years. The sun has given him a light ebony coat.

Alone, the flag-bearer marches on in the glass and granite market-place. Silenced by the light and display of the new swaraj. Silenced by the hardsell of New India. Sometimes the flag-bearer shouts Inquilabi limericks, learnt long ago. But mostly he's silent. As if he's in a dream.

The flag-bearer must have been a child at the time of Independence. An impressionable child. A child brilliantly affected by the Freedom message. A child whose youth was spent living a philosophy. But he doesn't preach. 'I want my life to be my message,' he says. His life is mostly spent walking through the country. Talking about Gandhi, distributing Gandhian messages to those who care to listen to him.

His message is also his flag. A faded tri-colour the size of a bath-towel, which he props on his shoulder.

To what end is all this flag-waving, I ask him.
Do you think someone pays me to do this, he asks back.
I am stumped. It's a tough life, I can see. The walking. The walking the talk.

And facing the slur of generations, far removed from the Freedom Struggle. The generations that blame Gandhi for taking the easier route.

It's obvious that he has a few benefactors, Congress leaders eager for photo-ops and news stories who provide him bed and breakfast, and perhaps some travel expenses. But that is all. There is no income to talk of. He eats only if he's offered. He doesn't beg. Doesn't complain.

It's also obvious that the flag-bearer has been stopped from entering some expensive places because of his 'inappropriate dress'. He probably doesn't know that khadi has ceased to be a fabric of resistance. That it's just another piece of exotic ethno-merchandise, like the Banaras silk.

But the flag-bearer walks on. Unfazed. Carrying decades of freedom on his back.
Like a latter-day Atlas. A Gandhian Atlas.

PS: I had met the flag-bearer in Connaught Place (Delhi) in the winter of 1999-2000.
Lolling on his gossamer wings. Like a trapeze artist. Like an octopus of the air. Like a gymnast with eight limbs.

The spider is a hand with eight fingers. Fingers, hanging on to semi-invisible strings. Fingers, playing the strings like a celestial guitar.

The spider is an artist. He makes his own music. Weaves his own flying carpet.

Between playing his guitar and flying his carpet he waits for food. Mind food that he eats and feels replenished.

The spider is a creature of space. He's the king of his corner. He comforts between corners. Not in them. Between corners he hangs his wings. And then hangs from them. Like an angel, semi-fallen. Hanging, between heaven and earth. From his wings.

The spider is a space traveller. He sees a lot. Doubts a lot. But the quivers of his celestial strings he knows like the back of his hand.

The spider is a collector. Of minor things. Subtleties. Jetsam washed into his web by the winds. In the ageing, weary light of the evening his web is like a Christmas tree, dangling jewels of stardust, bits of paper and irridiscent insect wings.
A sliver of blue smoke is rising like a DNA coil.

Rising from the tip of a smouldering cigarette.

The smoke DNA is rising warmly, some of it is being inhaled, like tubed anaesthesia, by some dumb birds idling on the window sill.

Suddenly the idle birds are flying with the eagles. Flying like eagles. But not really flying.

I am sitting with Me and Myself. I am split into three and located inside three individual heads. Three of us are sitting around smoking weed.

We're thinking aloud loudly. I, the smoker, smoke with undisguised relish, inhaling the untold story of a plant. Growing green. And conscious. Buzzing with molecules of thought. Growing somewhere dark, dusty and nondescript.

Me is smoker-buddy, sounding board non-pareil. Indefensible in his defence of my failings and addictions. Our talk is a back-and-forth reflection of what one is saying, perhaps not very well, to the other. We are like two mirrors facing each other and in the process forming a corridor of thresholds. Mirror looking into mirror.

Myself is a non-smoking judgementalist, not quite friend in the supportive sense of the word but a grumbling piece of furniture. Unwanted and usually undisturbed. But he too is caught between the two smokers bent on joining the dots around them. Myself, not-quite-friend, piece-of-furniture is being pushed around. Mentally. Between mirrors. Being made to sensify a nonsensical world. Mental brilliance here assumes the form of matchstick sparks. Junked in two seconds.

I like a Hindi film revivee keep saying 'So where was I?' again and again: a refrain indicating a losing battle with short-term memory. Or the damp, wispy remains of it that float unstuck inside my head.

'So where was I?' I say for what seems like the first time but Myself, the furniture, catches up with me with his own mind-travelling. Surprise, surprise!

'In Hitler's bunker,' he says nodding sagely, unsmilingly.

'Aah yes,' I say nodding to Me who taking advantage of the situation has greedily puffed some extra moments of the magic DNA. Noticing me looking at him, he quickly adds, 'And what were we doing there?'

'We were growing there,' I jump to explain. 'Yes we were growing there… As grass... And the Nazis fucked themselves up smoking us.'

Suddenly, all three of us are laughing and rolling on the floor like schoolboys with a righted hunch.

The wheels of civilisation now wear steel radials.

They are now faster. Tougher. And last longer.

But the game of power and dominion is soft. It works on subtleties. Suggestion mostly.

Suggestion disguised as information. Help. Love. Peace. And Freedom.

These are welcomely accepted, by all… doubly so when they are free and desperately-anticipated.

WITH the toughness of steel and soft strength of rubber, the new civilisation moves.

Freely, providing information. And Help. Love. Peace. And Freedom. To people. Turning them into obsessive finger-fuckers, of the remote and keyboard, in ways not imagined 20 years ago.

The wheels of civilisation now run on electronic gears. A new, improved and speeded-up civilisation, that requires neither arms nor ammunition.

The wheels of civilisation face no resistance. In a world that is shrinking. Getting smaller. And flatter. And more tightly wired.

An average person, on an average day can know things nextdoors, at places 5000 kilometres east and west of his own and on the moon without stepping out of his house even once.

The wheels move on 'seeing cables' or optic fibres.

They are not heard at the door but they drive into the mind directly. Subtly. Like a fever.

Then they get people talking. Wildly. And thinking. Wildly. Nonstop. Like a fever.

The steel radials brake better.

The old game of power and dominion is now played differently. It's now softer and subtler. Full of cunning.

Full of Division.

The division is bloodless. And the rule, without a sceptre.

Through technology-enabled fear. And rumour.

In such a reality the enemy cannot die.


A rumourified city has to have its bad guys.

The enemy cannot die. Even if it has to be on life support for life. Even if it is NOT the enemy.

‘So what if they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, they might get them in the future… from us!’

Prevention tops cure. It’s more fun too.

‘So, let’s go and smoke ’em out of their foxholes wherever they may be.’

‘And let’s do it fast.’

‘Before they 9/11 us again.’

Although, five years later we still don’t know if Osama is a real person? Or if Saddam, was a real threat. Or if the Axis of Evil is really evil?

Skull and Bones: The Corinthian and Doric pillared façade of Sikandar Bagh is the backdrop of the remains of soldiers who rose in rebellion against the East India Company in 1857. This albumen-silver print is by Felice Beato, an Italian photographer, who visited India during that period. Beato made over 60 photographs of Lucknow.


A black nimbus hung over Lucknow in the days that followed the Mutiny. It was the autumn of 1857 and the British were merciless. Native soldiers and civilians, about 2,000 in number, were shot down or hung from trees or both. Their corpses were left to rot on these trees like overripe mangoes.

Lucknow was to become a lesson across the Empire.

A lesson about the consequences of rebellion.

A platoon of British troops was camping at Sikandar Bagh, a pleasure garden completed by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah to quaintly mimic late Roman architecture. The soldiers were waiting for further orders... on putting down the mutiny.

It must have been a day of relative peace as the soldiers were just sitting around, doing the equivalent of watching TV in the army mess. Suddenly, there was a loud gun shot. One soldier fell to the ground. Dead. Then fell another, then another and another. Like this a sniper's sitting somewhere in the foliage of the trees killed about a dozen Company soldiers. All without a single miss.

Then the sniper was spotted. A Company soldier shot the sniper down. On hitting the ground long hair spilled out of the sniper’s turban. That's when Company soldiers realised that their nemesis was actually a native woman dressed as a mutineer.

Who was she? And who had taught her to shoot like that?

It must have been puzzling, thought not altogether surprising for the soldiers. Because by then Company troops had been made aware of the warrior queen, Rani Laxmibai, how she was as able a warrior as any of her troops.

The soldiers took off their helmets and saluted her, gave her a proper burial.

Years later, after Independence the UP state government installed a marble bust under the sniper tree. The bust was of a Hindu woman in a tight turban standing to attention, eyes facing the road.

Till a few years ago the sniper was simply known as the 'unknown martyr'… till Mayawati gave her a name, a caste and a clumsy but prominent place at the roadcross between the Botanical Garden and the Doordarshan studios. Today the bust has transformed into an equestrian statue. Further down the road is a newspaper office.

The lesson of the Empire is all but forgotten in the cacophony of the new media. The 'Company', meanwhile, survives. It is now busy making martyrs elsewhere in the world. In countries it has no business being. The Company tells its people that it is fighting liberation wars in these countries.

Like it did in so many countries and kingdoms a century earlier. But in truth these are only 'business wars'. Fought for oil and other stuff.
Half-eaten books are our heritage. The 'half' here is metaphorical rather than real. The metaphor is used to build a case for books. Their use. Their utility.

The phenomenon of their stored knowledge trickling into the brain like water through a filtration plant. The half-eaten books have in them holes. Holes with gulped-up words and punctuation that leave behind crazy, hilarious voids. Some times you laugh at them. Sometimes you weep.

Their pages look like Swiss cheese. Relished and feasted upon. And still swarming with hungry fish. These land fish spend their entire lives in books. Devouring them. Eating them page by page. As if their life depended on it.

Do they like the paper? Or the black ink on it?

Or the treasures the pages are rumoured to have?

But no one writes for silver fish.

Books, purchased and bookshelved for their exclusive consumption.

To be consumed by silver fish.
And them alone.

Writers would much rather that their words were read. Not eaten. And digested.

So the fish eat just what's available.

In eating they play with words.

Add irony here. Comedy there. Tragedy somewhere else.


Give the story a twist.
The grey cement floor was turning black as the herd of blue-black elephants above fell prey to nature. They landed on the cement floor in tiny drops of blood.

Slowly, at first, then in rapid showers.

Soon the mammoths' dark blood was all over the floor..

The drops landed on the parched floor with the quickness of an anaphylactic shock.

Soon the grey floor was all black. The blue-black creatures were being slaughtered by swords of slithering light and great noise.

There was elephant blood all over the floor. On every house, tree, car and animal.

Soon our whole world was bathed in blue-black elephant blood.

We had all been eagerly waiting for this yearly massacre.
Speedo: Hi, ASL?
Sleeping_beauty: Nice name! :) u like swimming?
Speedo: Yeah, love it. But I was called that even before we knew of the swim wear. Age?
Sleeping_beauty: LOL so wer u located?
Speedo: me in Delhi, n u? Age?
Sleeping_beauty: Cool. also in Delhi. Wot's wit this age hang-up?
Speedo: Sorry. So where in delhi u located?
Sleeping_beauty: Not so soon honey… what do you do, Speedo?
Speedo: Umm, a lot of things. Better thing to ask wud be what I don't… those are fewer.
Sleeping_beauty: Hmm, so tell me what is it u don't do?
Speedo: Nothing :)
Sleeping_beauty: ??? wazzat mean?
Speedo: Means I try and do everything once.
Sleeping_beauty: Smart, ar we?
Speedo: Hehehehe… just myself!! What u into, about etc?
Sleeping_beauty: I am doing psycho hon from…. Fugget it.
Speedo: Cool. So u un'stand people well?
Sleeping_beauty: Not yet, just reading those who did v well.
Speedo: n wot do you do when not readin these people.
Sleeping_beauty: chatting.
Speedo: what kind of chats are u into?
Sleeping_beauty: Any and all? 'cept the prying ones.
Speedo: U into cyber sex?
Sleeping_beauty: 'pends
Speedo: on what?
Sleeping_beauty: on who I am with… can be very boring
Speedo: Wanna try me?
Sleeping_beauty: u?
Speedo: No, my dad.
Sleeping_beauty: ur funny.
Speedo: Hmm. So shall we start?
Sleeping_beauty: Start? Haven't we already?
Speedo: What u wearing sweetheart?
Sleeping_beauty: black Victoria's Secret lingerie. Very sexy ;)
Speedo: Hmm. Let's start with ur ears. I don't like the taste of metal. Here I am removing the earrings.
Sleeping_beauty: But they're my lucky errings
Speedo: Well, now u have me. Your neck looks pale honey. Let me add some colour with my lips and tongue. Like it?
Sleeping_beauty: Hmm. ur good, hmm
Speedo: feel my tongue on ur lobe, behind ur ear now, on the back of ur neck. Isn't it too hot for that top. Shall we loosen things a bit? Here lemme help.
Sleeping_beauty: It's not a top. It's lingerie.
Speedo: K, cool. So let's junk the LINGERIE now
Sleeping_beauty: Wot bout u? rn't u going to lighten up?
Speedo: My Tee's off, can u feel my warm breath on your tits?
Sleeping_beauty: Don't like tits… nips is better
Speedo: Ok nips… wow they're getting hard with every lick of my tongue.
Sleeping_beauty: I like ur nips too. They're purple like bruises.
Speedo: I like ur bell button, so deep… I cud fall into it :)
Sleeping_beauty: I like ur smell… wot is it?
Speedo: My sweat… smells like cologne innit?
Sleeping_beauty: Yeah sure :( k don't tell me…
Speedo: My hand's between ur legs now
Sleeping_beauty: Yes and I don't normally wear any panties
Speedo: That's so cool just my kinda girl
Sleeping_beauty: Why are u still wearing those shorts? Rid them off u
Speedo: K. here goes the shorts and the undies
Sleeping_beauty: Wow cool hardware u got there sailor
Speedo: thnks. Ur software's also very inviting… Yum
Sleeping_beauty: Let's kiss now
Speedo: k. French? Or Indian?
Sleeping_beauty: What's Indian?
Speedo: Dry, non-stick type
Sleeping_beauty: K. French's cool wid me.
Speedo: 4 me too :) now I am parting ur legs
Sleeping_beauty: Am soo wet, ur good at this sailor
Speedo: N now am entering u, slow n sure. Am hard, very hard
Sleeping_beauty: Wot do u mean, slow n sure, sounds silly
Speedo: K wotever. Ur hands are grabbing my shoulders very tite
Sleeping_beauty: Hmmm. That feels so nice sailor.
Speedo: now we're beginning our ride… slowly like a boat on the sea
Sleeping_beauty: Hmmm… I like boat rides
Speedo: Hmmm
Sleeping_beauty: Omigod!!!
Speedo: Ooohhh am bout to…
Sleeping_beauty: Meeeeee toooo
Speedo: Aaaahh baby…
Sleeping_beauty: Was so gud…
Speedo: Amazing. Phew!
Sleeping_beauty: Guess u shud sleep now. Nite nite sailor.
Speedo: Hey… wait…
Speedo: BUZZ
Speedo: U there
Speedo: bitch!

Some nights when urgent printing deadlines needed to be met, the machines would burn the midnight oil and keep some of us awake with their ratatatat. It was called Mew Printing Press. And we thought it was a mistaken 'New'. Ignorant as we were of the Greek alphabet.

As kids we often went inside the press to ask for discarded paper and glue to bandage torn kites and make 'wanted posters' of each other. During these trips we'd also survey the unholy mess of letters inside the press. Letters lying in open boxes, each for a different size, different font. The letters were just metal pieces that were fixed in rows to form words and sentences on a page.

Sometimes we stole these letters when no one was looking. This was done just for a lark. Like the shoplifter's thrill.

"I got an L, what did you get?"
"I got a P, and it's bigger than your L."
"Next time we should get whole words."
"Yeah, maybe we can print our own pages."
"But you need a machine for that dumbo…"
"No, but we can trace them on paper… with a pencil… like you do with a coin."
"Hmmm… that's an idea… why didn't you think of it before."

And like that, unthinkingly, we stole words from the press. Without realising how heavy stolen words could get in our pockets. Or how they would sometimes injure our mothers' fingers as they emptied our pockets before the laundry rites.

I don't know about the others but those sharp metallic letters entered my head in ways I cannot explain.

And once inside, they pretty much wreaked havoc, giving shape to everything I felt, thought and… didn't dare do.
(Pic by Sahar Z.)

Take Away (installation) by Riyas Komu

For the past two days I have been terrorising my cable guy because of this message that appears on my screen whenever I try to go to bodhishop.blogspot.com or for that matter any blogspot site:

502 Bad Gateway
The following error occurred: [code=DNS_HOST_NOT_FOUND] The host name was not found during the DNS lookup. Contact your system administrator if the problem is not found by retrying the URL.
Could not open error file

Thankfully a blogger friend mailed and gave me the lowdown on what's happening. Through him I reached other 'non-blogger' bloggers and some world-famous bloggers too... only to find out that this was the work of our Government, that's now turned into a professional net nanny.

Must say I am amused, angry, perplexed, disappointed with the turn of events. Had always thought we had better sense than doing what a concerned blogger called the equivalent of turning off the water supply because the terrorists were using water!

The MAZE is a brain.

An analogue.

You have to find your way through it.
Turning often, but walking straight..

With enough practice, the maze begins to make sense.
It begins to coalesce into a straight road.

Like the brain stretching out like a single sheet of tissue,
uncreased and unfolded,

without recesses and dark areas.

This is one of the awesomest pictures of Marilyn that I have ever seen. It's from her last picture collection (also found in a book titled Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting) and is by a 'photo-artist', Bert Stern. Stern had three sessions with Marilyn at the Los Angeles Bel-Air Hotel in June 1962, six weeks before her death.

The European Stern has brilliantly captured the power and magic of a modern American goddess. Americans are, by habit and compulsion, apologetic pagans. They love their heroes but deny them their pedestals. Sometimes when they love them too much, they also crucify them.

Why? It is perhaps a residue of the Christian dread and embarrassment of death. Early death especially is seen as something that happens only to the wicked and unrighteous. Or to Jesus Christ. Either ways, it is a bad thing. And Marilyn fitted the 'bad thing' bill perfectly.

This picture of Marilyn crucified conjured up images of the crematorium near my old (by five days) office. I have passed this place on almost all my working days. On many occasions I have had the fortune of filling my nostrils with the smell of fresh cremation. The smell of burning flesh, hair, muscles and bones. And seeing the black fumes escape from the top of the high-walled building. Seeing in a way the transubstantiation of a fellow man. Body turning into smoke and dust. And soul disappearing dunnowhere.

Near the crematorium is a traffic-island. It's a triangular piece of road-divider and footpath now taken up by the pigeons. On occasions I have seen the pigeons rise up like a huge sheet of grey, startled by sudden loud sounds such as cracker explosions, tyre bursts or cracking dead bones.

These pigeons are fed daily by those who've recently burned their dead. It's a form of ancestor worship. In the hope that feeding the pigeons also means you are feeding your ancestors. Feeding, a bodily function, survives even death and must be carried on to show gratefulness and perhaps earn merit. That is the belief. It also works out to be a very ecological belief. Feeding. Near a place of total material decimation.

What survives this total decimation or turning into ash of the human body is memory… in the minds of those who outlive the dead.

The guy selling pigeon-feed sits on the traffic-island under an old car frame. He looks like the last survivor of a terrible accident. It looks like most of the Maruti Gypsy he sits under has plunged into the earth, leaving only a half-raised rear. Everyday he sells pigeon-feed by the kilos. Pigeon-feed that is scattered on the traffic-island that has now become 'dead ancestor island'.

Here memory is fed daily with pigeon-feed.

So that dread and embarrassment are no more part of dying.

Death, it is believed, is only for sometime.

It's just rehab.

After life.

And everyone has to go through it.

Let it fly
and lie open
to sunshine
and the winds
of self-
and some
and some
and some
wads of
to buy some
love and
goodwill and
some peace
and all the
other stuff

Let it fly
and take
with it
all my miseries
and my pain
for ever,
to some
place dark
and lonely,
with some
hidden kind
of meaning

Let it fly
and divide
its time
life and
death and
some other
of fun
and some
of games.

Let it fly
and look
down at
the sleeping
crowds below
and say
Praise the lord
coz we're
lucky and

Let it fly
and keep
the fuck
this shit
is gonna
take you
then say
to that
and that
the other
then just
whisper a




!!!!These words need to be sung, People!!!!

Your name was no mystery. Whoever saw you, first saw those turquoise eyes with their specks of gold. They also saw your smooth butter-biscuit skin. And your hair that changed colour with the different watches of the day. What made it unbearable for me was the fact that we--both you and I--were young, not yet eight, but somehow ready for love.

And then the movie happened to us. Actually, a scene from it that showed a just-married hero and heroine coupling like hungry animals. You looked at me and smiled. I smiled too. It was a sort of code. One that promised something new. Hot and tantalising.

The scene over, the movie held little interest for us, so we came out of the movie room, where the whole larger family was watching a Sunday film on TV, just days ahead of an uncle's wedding.

"You saw?" You were definitely the bolder of the two of us.
"Er… yes," I was a bit tongue-tied.
"We should try it sometime," you said, your thin red lips curling into a smile like a snake slithering on a still waters.
"Yes… we must," I said, my heart beating like grasshopper wings.

The grasshopper feeling was realised the next day. On a hot summer afternoon, when everybody was asleep. You had no fear of being caught. You probably had all your alibis in place. We were in an unoccupied room where only a curtain separated us from shame and exposure.

"We are just married, okay. And it's our honeymoon," you explained and started to strip. "Now you pretend you're taking my pictures," and you began striking poses I had only seen on poster models.
"Okay, darling, I am tired now… let's sleep now," you smiled your red curly smile again. "But why are you still wearing your clothes… take them off… it's our honeymoon, no?"
Soon I was naked too, trembling to the touch of your skin against mine. Naked we kissed and caressed each other. Till we ran out of ideas. So we napped naked before waking up and going back to the rest of the clan.

I was guilt-ridden, after all you were my sister, no matter how distant. But you were back to being your blithe self. You stirred something in all of us. In your heart you probably knew that you were the hidden reason behind a lot of fights between us brothers, cousins. And you'd play us all together and individually: catching, like a child genius, on our peculiar weaknesses.

Later as a teenager, I remember once convincing you to come home with us during the summer break. I promised you movies, music and some trips to the new water park in my city. But there was a hidden agenda. Of being able to finish the love scene that we started years ago.

But this time you were playing someone else. Another cousin from my mother's side. I sulked but I can't even say you were totally callous. You played me too, but whenever you found the time. And I regretted getting you with us.

When you left, you left with a promise of keeping in touch. And you did, but it was mostly to tell me about your current boyfriend.

Soon after our class XII results, we got news that you had eloped. The family was livid. Search parties were sent out in different cities to look for you. I was part of one too, more curious than vengeful. But it was all a wild goose chase. Your plans were like a film script.

It happened a few months before your 18th birthday. And as soon as you turned 18, you were married in a secret ceremony where no-one from our side of the family was present.

In the years that followed the beautiful rebel in you turned into a devoted housewife and mother and all our childhood fantasies were erased like chalk stories from a blackboard.

This Monday I got another piece of news about you. That you had left your husband and two kids... forever.

In these last six months of your life you had been like an upside down drip bottle, slowly emptying out of its contents to those around you. I never visited you in hospital because I didn't want to change my last image of you… But Pa did. And he admired your strength when you told him that you'd be back on your feet soon.

Strangely, last night you and I were kids again.

Pushing the envelope… playing wife and husband once again… again without a damn care in the world....

Goodbye and take care Neelu!
(Pic by Keshav C)

And I also carry a code. Unbroken. Unread. Puzzling. Fuck knows meaning what. Breathing down my neck like a pre-historic moth trapped in the amber of my skin, waiting to be born again... resurrected... as words and thoughts in blue dye.
It's been a year since I started blogging (here's proof!!). Bodhihop, unlike Rome, was built in a day. On an impulse, after reading blogs of friends and acquaintances. When I started, I didn't even know what a 'blog' meant but I went ahead nonetheless.

This year as a blogger has been fun. And eventful. Have attended several Bloggers Meets. Met bloggers of various persuasions and views, some of whom turned out to be celebrities of this underground and anonymous world. Also realised many things in this my first blogger year. And topping that list of realisations is the fact that blogging's about energy. The more you spend on exploring your mind and sharing its contents with people, the more you are likely to attract, by ways of eyeballs and comments. A certain honesty and candidness is, of course, a prerequisite. As is the ability to make connections: both in how you write and with those for whom you write.

Offline too, a lot's happened in this year. Decisions have been made. Choices, pared down to only the most exciting. And this month has been unusually 'electric' in that sense. My love life has placed me in a zone of depth and meaning, which is good. I celebrated my new birthday on 666, mostly by sleeping and yawning heavily when not. And also by waking up at around 11 pm to a world that seemed to be on mute. Six days before that, I submitted my sixth resignation letter, without knowing what I'd be doing next. What's more, my dismal bank records have entitled me to a loan of Rs 1.5 lakh (haha). This last one, however, has pushed me into the arms of a fresh dilemma. But that's another story.

Thanks to all these sudden changes my worried friends have begun suggesting alternative careers. These include: travelling (bet you didn't know that could be a career), writing a book, selling insurance, making an experimental film (yeah, the 'experimental' is important), becoming a travel guide, drug-peddling, gigolo-ing, driving a taxi, becoming a motivational speaker or a sex guru, selling Amway products and last but not the least important, taking sannyas. These options, as anyone facing so many would know, have thrown me into further confusion, which is not so bad as it could also be a career option. I could become a confusionary or something like that: giving very confusing advice to people willing to pay.

that reality is essentially a metaphor...
for dreams... And that dreams are the 'original'
form open to subtle manipulations
from a higher consciousness.

Much like genetic engineering
changes the ARE-ness of beings
by manipulating DNA
dreams too change reality
by opening up possibilities.

The men or women who understand this fact
also understand the ways of reality.

Picture by Keshav C
Tags are a pain. But when they come through people you dig, you're left with little choice.
This one comes to me through
Methinks and Scout.

So here goes my SIX WEIRD-FACT list:

* I was a pyromaniac kid. There were real fears that if I was left home-alone with a matchbox there would be no home to speak of.

* The first time I appeared on stage was as a tree. It was a non-speaking role. But I thought I'd become a celebrity at school. Of course no one remembered the tree.

* My older sis and bro told me I was adopted and I believed them. I also believed them when they told me I was a baby croc when they got me. And I was grateful for all the work they'd done to make me look human.

* I didn't know what FUCK meant till class ten.

* I had a pair of white mice that ate their own kids. Also had a parrot that opened its cage and walked out to freedom.

* I have passed out mid-flight after wanting to go out of the plane for some fresh air.

Am not passing this on, but please consider yourself tagged if this interests you :)
Siachen: In the summer months the glacier retreats, goes closer to the mountian-base where it is covered with some grey matter, looking very unsnowlike. Below, in the valley, wheel-borne guns boom in competitive echoes. Four, to one from the other side. Cameras are not allowed here like at so many other 'sensitive' places in India. There are camouflage watchposts around here that are located inside Himalayan grottoes.

These are the eyes of the army.

Soldiers keep the enemy fixed in the crosshairs of their guns and binocs from these posts. At night, when temperatures feel like the moon's dark side, they can't even light up. Because that would give them away. Unannounced blizzards and the wind-chill that follows them also work on their flesh and skin. Frosting them to such a degree that many lose their fingers if exposed for a long time. The air is also thin here. Sometimes mimicking the effects of mind-altering drugs. Radio and TV are simply out of the question.

Such is the watcher's ennui at these posts that the sleep cycle often spirals out into other dimensions. Like a telescope penetrating awareness, delirium and sleep, all at the same time. Talking to oneself is common here. So is cursing, crying and compulsive onanism. Only the very steady in mind are given these post duties. But even the very steady in mind find it difficult here. That's why post duties here are shorter, relatively.

O P Baba is one of the very few who has survived these harsh conditions. As a result he's become an unrelenting toughie. He is especially heavy on those who fall asleep when there are required to be up and awake. Soldiers often get nightmares about O P Baba. Those found sleeping are woken up by stinging thwacks across their faces. Smuggled cigarettes are also similarly snatched from mouths. O P Baba is such a terror that young officers and jawans sometimes wonder if he was ever young himself. If he ever felt even a minor tug of youthful rebellion.

If he ever transgressed. Or disobeyed orders.

Every new entrant to Siachen is warned about O P Baba. There's also a small shrine that some jawans have made for him. It's meant to keep him in good humour.

Details of OP Baba are sketchy. No one knows for sure which regiment he belonged to. Or what was his exact rank.

Or for that matter when and how he left his body to become the glacier's phantom saint.
(Pic by Moses & Mamta S.)

AFLOAT: And one day I too shall pull in my flappers and begin my slow descent towards the sea-bed...
Siachen Base Camp, Partapur. The sinking sun brings its own miseries here. It’s end August and the mist swallows and vomits the road like a gluttonous tunnel demon. The drop in temperature is so sudden that it seems someone’s suddenly slammed the freezer door on you. Evening also falls suddenly as the sun disappears behind the last village on the border.

We are lodged inside a dorm of corrugated metal sheets. There are two rows of beds inside. This is where the soldiers break their journey, to and from Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. This is just weeks after ‘Kargil’, the war that caught us unawares. The soldiers are still not used to the peace, that came as suddenly as the war. Conversation revolves around friends’ families, who now have to live without them. Someone’s young kids, someone’s ‘just-married’ wife, old parents; everyone is remembered. The departed friends are just mentioned in passing.

Sleep descends like anesthesia. We’re all very tired. The soldiers from their downward journey to the base camp. And we, from riding our bikes uphill from Leh. It’s too cold for mosquitoes. A lone naked bulb is our beacon of civilisation in the middle of a cold and dark battlefield. Everyone, soldier and civilian, sleeps deep and soundlessly.

Morning at the base camp is pleasantly warm. It seems there are some advantages of being hoisted up at over 11000 feet, above sea level. Morning brings its own intrigues.

Out on the flat, drill field—possibly also the world’s highest—the base camp dogs have collected. They’re about eight in number, variously mixed but mostly thick-furred Bhutias. They’re barking at the smell of some as yet unseen excitement.

Then four soldiers walk to the middle of the field with four steel cages. Inside them are big fat bandicoots.

The dogs circle around the caged bandicoots, who’re now beginning to crawl desperately inside their meagre cages, which are actually biggish mousetraps. The barking has now transformed into clenched teeth yelps, like muffled ‘attack signals’. The soldiers swing the cages over the dogs, to get them acquainted with smell of bandicoots.

And then the cages are opened. The dogs move back, the barks stop and ears stand up like snake hoods. They know going close to the cages would mean an end to the game.

The bandicoots are cunning too. They may not be able to smell the dogs as well as they can smell them but they know escape from the traps won’t be easy. But they are fooled by the silence. They come out gingerly, sniffing the air. The dogs are dead silent. The bandicoots begin to run towards safety. There are no bushes, no places to hide. And the bandicoots aren’t fast enough. The dogs, on the other hand, are trained for this.

In no time the special ration-fattened bandicoots are torn to shreds by the base camp dogs. All eight get their trophies, which they drag and maul against the gravelly field till the carcasses look like wet woollen socks. The game ends there. The dogs are whistled away for breakfast. And the bandicoots lie dead under the warming sun, waiting to be picked up by passing birds of prey.

Munich in January is cold. So cold that it can make alcoholics of teetotallers. People drink and go out to drink some more. Clubbing here is done mostly to keep the soul warm and the limbs moving.

Somewhere between the Munich Hard Rock Café and the world-famous Hofbräuhaus is our joint. It's 'old world', especially by the standards of new Munich, which is leaning more towards American kitsch. Not that our joint isn't. It is, but in an old world way. It has a Marilyn-in-flying-skirt cut-out, a neon cowboy and a throb-light chick crawling on all four outside it's glass window. Advertising, that's what they're for.

A narrow staircase takes you to the first-floor joint. It's dark but luminous inside. And you are greeted by some very happy women. Most of them are giggling at jokes not meant to be funny. The place's not big enough for a dance floor but it has a stage in the centre. Behind the stage are concentric rings of coloured light that are flickering indifferently.

Most tables are empty but ours is taken, by Svetlana and her silent friend. Svetlana is tall, but unlike most German women, she gives the impression of petiteness. Like a ballet-dancer. Maybe it's her delicate features or maybe it's the beer inside my belly.

When she tells me her name my first reaction is predictable.
"But isn't that a Russian name?"
"Yes, it is," she says in clear unaccented English.
"So what brings you to Germany."
"Which part of Russia?"
"Moscow, actually."
"What did you do there? Lemme guess… you were a cosmonaut?"
"I was a chemist."
"Wow, so is this work satisfying."
"Of course. I get to meet so many interesting men… like you."
"But what about feelings?"
"What about them? This is 'pussy business' what do feelings have to do with it?" And she begins to laugh. Her cruel and enchanting laughter.

Svetlana's friend makes up for her silence through incessant giggles. She doesn't seem to understand English. Svetlana introduces her as Julia. "Is she Russian too?" I ask her. "Maybe," she says and laughs.

Svetlana is very protective towards Julia. They're a package deal.

"You can chat with both of us. Just for a bottle of Champagne."
"Can't we settle for… say… er… beer?"
"C'mon a bottle won't kill you."
"At 100 dollars a bottle, it surely will, Svetlana."
"But I like you…"
"I like you too Svetlana… does Champagne include other stuff… you know… other stuff?"
"No you have to pay extra for everything I do for you," she winks and smiles wickedly.

My friend, a reporter from Brazil, says nothing to help, even though coming here was his idea. He and Julia are perhaps bonding silently.

Time's running on rocket fuel. And Svetlana is not even a has-been cosmonaut. She's called by her boss to another table. Silent Julia is with us. I can see Svetlana through the corners of my eyes, laughing with the other customers. The night is still young but I have an early morning flight to catch. Suddenly the music gets louder and the stage lights begin to dance in concentric circles. A woman appears on stage. She's wearing a Bavarian peasant dress that she is slowly and sensuously getting rid of. First the sleeves, then the shirt, then the skirt, and then the wig. Now she's only wearing a black bikini. And moving like an python. In her final act she pulls off the last remnants of clothing from her body as if it were a web growing on her. Free and gorgeously glowing in the flickering light she parts.

Svetlana, who's now behind us, is moving towards the stage, I ask her where she's going. "To show my ass," she says as her hand tenderly moves across my cheek.
"Don't go Svetlana!" I surprise myself.
"This is my work," she says smiling indulgently.
"Fuck it and come with me."
She smiles and her eyes melt for that small smidgen of a second and she says…
"Sweet... I'll remember you, love."

Svetlana comes in a leather dominatrix gear, complete with a whip, that she cracks a few times in mock aggression. A few cracks of the whip, and Svetlana is ready to show ass. First to go is her leather skirt, then goes her top. She looks very gothic in her black lingerie and whip. Her dance is a game of allusions and promise. And a proud nakedness that only the gods are capable of. I have moved to the table closest to the stage. Svetlana's eyes barely leave me. The rest of her clothes slide off her like water drops from leaves. She is now standing in her black panties moving tantalisingly to the rhythms of an imagined hip-lock. Eyes closed she yanks off the last patch of cloth from her body and the room gets a view of what used to be her private parts.

She blows me a kiss and disappears. Swallowed up by the oldest and hugest multi-national corporation known to man.

Next I know, I am on the plane, flying above Munich while Svetlana sleeps dreaming of money and freedom.

Manali, 1999: A huge chunk of land on which this house is built was eaten by the river last time it was in spate. But there's still enough space to walk around it without staring down a sudden crag. The road from here runs along the river for what seems like eternity. The house has a force-field that is difficult to ignore. It makes heads turn, vehicles slow down and dogs feel obliged not to piss on its wall.

It's not a big house, but looks comfortable, aloof and lost in deep contemplation. Its gabled front door doesn't face the iron-grill gate that opens on the road. Instead it looks out on a patch of hobby trees--some apple, some pomegranate. The house has the isolation of a palace, caught as it is between the river and the mountains.

We have stopped at the mechanic's just outside the house to get our bike fixed. It's taking long, so I decide to walk, stretch and exercise my back and shoulders, while my friend waits upon his ailing silver-jubilee Enfield.

The iron-grill gates are open, not fully but just enough, so I enter, wanting to capture the house in my camera. A black dog stares at me blankly, too lazy to bark, too tired to chase. But my steps are tentative. I don't know whether there are other more ferocious dogs lurking there somewhere.

"Don't worry... he's tied." The voice is coming from the verandah next to the gabled front door.
"I am sorry for intruding… but the house… err.. your house… just wouldn't let me pass."
She smiles. The man with her smiles and nods.

"Can I take a picture of your house?"
"Yes, please go ahead. But first we shall make ourselves scarce."
They stand up to go inside.
"No, no please don't… You make the house look good."
"Oh come on, two old fogeys can't do that. You will have to go ahead without us."
She smiles and both she and the man go inside, using their folded cloth-backed chairs as walking sticks.

The house smiles at the camera and gives it some great pictures. When I ring at their door to say thankyou and goodbye, she surprises me.

"Why don't you stay on and have a drink with us."
"I'd be delighted, but I have a friend waiting outside."
"Get him as well."
"Okay, I'll try."

Pleasantly surprised I go out and call my friend who says the repair would take longer. He tells me to go ahead and have fun and that he'd join me later.
"Is she young?" He asks smiling mischievously.
"Yup, extremely."

A menacing-looking antler is staring from above the their cozy drawing room fire place. They look comfortable enough to welcome a stranger in their house.

"My morning drink's whisky, what's yours?"
I am beginning to like them very much.

"Umm… the same."
Gold-filled glasses with ice cubes and soda are raised in a toast to the road and to travellers and an old familiar conversation begins.

I feel the need to light up and ask if it's okay with them but she answers me with another question. "Do you think I can bum a cigarette off you. It's been ages since I had one."
"Sure? What about you?" I ask the man. He refuses.

The sticks are fuming and the glasses are on to their second refills. We're like old friends from another lifetime, catching up from where our road forked out in different directions.

"We used to be three. G died last year."

Three friends. Two men and one her, who married neither but loved both. So they decided to build a "base camp" in Manali for the half year they spent travelling in the hills. Away from Bombay where their professions kept them trapped and occupied. The men were businessmen and she was a school principal. All Gujaratis, one of the most oppressively traditional people in the world.

"Must be tough?" I ask.
"We never cared," she says, her young, horn-rimmed eyes gurgling like whisky topped with soda and ice.

"We used to go for these long, long drives… suddenly without a plan. Just a toothbursh and a swim suit. The road was our fourth friend. We found this place during one of our travels and decided to let our anchors down."

I am too moved to react. They seem to have lived the life, held back neither by fear of scandal nor anticipated regret.

Two hours pass, the bottle of whisky has now entered our three souls like so many bottles of whisky must have penetrated so many souls, meeting for the first time.

"Does the house have a name?" I ask feeling warm and awesomely touched.
"People here know it as the 'Bombay Kothi' but we call it SNUG House."
"You know what SNUG House stands for?"
"Nope. Tell me."
"It stands for him: S, me: N and G: who left us last year."
"And U?"
"That's you!" And she laughs the most free and lilting 75-year-old laughter I've ever heard or seen.
The gods came out of chaos.

A swamp of undifferentiated matter: neither solid nor liquid, neither water nor land.

Leaving their home, the gods were tired. Leaving their home, the gods felt lonely. So they became many. Creating emanations, not womb-born children, but copies of themselves. Each copy containing a bit of the gods.

Then the gods sent out their emanations into the uninhabited world.

The gods being raw and nascent fought a lot. Shedding much god-blood. The god-blood acted as food for the emanations.

Meanwhile, the emanations-both good, bad, noble and ugly-wreaked havoc in the world. Like their originals. Like them, they fought often, giving birth to chaos. The emanations too sent out their emanations; not like themselves but weaker and more confused. They were weakly good. Weakly bad. Weakly noble. Weakly ugly.

And weakly god.

But their chaos was HUGE. It was basic, atomic...nuclear, really. Wound tightly, inside a centrifuging core. Their mighty, nuclear chaos melted the entire world. Turning everything back into a swamp. Of undifferentiated matter: neither solid nor liquid; neither water nor land. A soup, of nothing yet of everything.

A soup containing heads, hands and feet. And thickening blood.

A soup of chaos.

Or the undifferentiated abode of gods.

(A retelling of the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian Bullshit)
River had tagged me way back in time.

And as a ‘tagged’ someone, I am supposed to send this online probe to 8 unsuspecting victims. So here goes my end of the bargain:

* EIGHT things my errr… perfect lover should have: an extremely high tolerance for quirky behaviour, the gift of finding beauty in strangeness, a nose for sniffing out mood changes, a hunger for liquid pleasures, intoxication in the eyes, a body built for bedroom adventures (not necessarily in the bedroom), a mind that’s mostly out flying and a mouth that knows its meant for better things.
* The sex of the target: Preferably female but she can also be male.

And my eight victims are: Le Chitelier, blow, scout, Nimbu, Raghav, Ms.B, km and Sue hardy-Dawson
Begum Zaitun was 30, suicidal and very brave.

She had lost her husband a few months ago. At home the slurs were becoming unbearable. They questioned her competence as a wife, as a woman, even as a human being. Begum Zaitun was a fresh widow. From Chhote Khan's much-loved wife she had become Zaitun, the witch. Suicide seemed like a release from the prison that had once been her home.

So she walked. Walked towards the dreaded Chambal. The refuge of bandits and outcasts. The river that circumscribed her small walkable universe.

It was early dawn. Zaitun was walking her last mile. First time out, without her white penguin veil. She found herself a jumping spot, in the middle of the old stone bridge. Suleiman and Zarina, her surviving fifth and seventh born, were with her, on either side. Zaitun had planned to follow her husband. To the end of her walkable universe. The river. The refuge of outcasts. With her entire family. The slurred, 'black-faced' family. She had become a husband-eater. Bad luck buzzed over her head like hungry flies. They said, she should have died in the cradle. Still-birthed. Finished at the beginning.

But she lived.

"Hold my hands and close your eyes," she told Suleiman and Zarina. And she jumped into the Chambal. When Zaitun touched the water surface, it opened its mouth to welcome her. It was a moment. An awakening. A thrill she had never felt before. Zaitun had entered another universe. Not wet, not cold but light-headed and flushed with a silver iridescence.

Suddenly she was not inside the river but walking on it. Walking towards a man with long hair and a beard. He was wearing a white cloak made from a fabric of light. She had never seen him before.

"Who are you, sa'ab?" she asked momentarily blinded by his brilliance. "I am a lost soul, a lone woman: husband-eater and cursed mother... But who are you, sa'ab? Your kind one doesn't see often? Are you an angel? A saint maybe?"

"I am Jesus." His voice was like the chorus of a thousand minstrels, each singing of his own loss.

"Oh the Christian god."
"Maybe... but I am older than that."
"Do you believe in Allah?"
"Do you believe in resurrection?"
"I don't know. What is happening to me, Jesus?"
"But why?"
"Because you willed it."
"By jumping in the river."
"I had nothing to live for."
"What about Suleiman and Zarina?"
"They are children. They would go straight to heaven."
"And what about me?"
"You? I don't know... Where are my children?"
"They are safe."
"But why did you save me?"
"You mean it is your habit to save people?"
"You could say that."
"Can I see my children?"
"Yes, but first you must see something else. Here, look over there."
"What is this place? Is this what lies beyond the river? It's beautiful... what is this place?"
"This is where you must return."
"Can I enter now?"
"No, not now."
"But... I have nothing to live for... please let me enter this paradise... yes paradise it must be."
"No, not now. You have your children to whom you must return."
"But when will I be able to enter this place."
"How long is soon?"
"When the time is right."
"Oh please don't go... wait.. Suleiman? Zarina? Where did you children go?"
"We were here, Amma. Someone saved us from the water. But you were unconscious."
"Did you see him? The man who saved us."
"Yes. It was a fisherman from the other side."
"What did he look like?"
"Like a fisherman, Amma. Are you all right?"
"Yes, son. Let's go home."

And home they went but Zaitun had changed in ways more than a suicide ever can.



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As an art practitioner I work in a variety of mediums, what you see here are glimpses of my many creative projects. If you like or feel strongly something here please don't forget to comment



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