This is Lucknow's Residency. The headquarters of the 1857 rebellion. Today it is huge garden dotted with roofless ruins and cemetaries, a museum and several rusty cannons. It is quiet in here, except for bird calls and the shuffling of feet of couples who come here to hold hands and kiss behind cannon-scarred walls. In the middle of this tableau of death and romance is a small 'wishing grave'. A dargah of some sainted personage. People come here to wish away their problems and to make requests for future betterment. They come here with padlocks and plastic bags. The bags they tie on the branches of the nearby trees. The padlocks they put on a wire next to the grave taking the keys with them. They return, at least some of them, when their prayers are answered and take with them the padlocks and the pieces of plastic. As if withdrawing their petitions from the office of a magistrate.

My blog has for a long time been whispering to me to do something DIFFERENT with it... I on the other hand have been ignoring that whisper. Perhaps because I felt un-ready for anything more strenuous that the striking of fingers on a keyboard.
Perhaps, the time was not right.

Today, after spending about three months with my aloneness, on the banks of the Ganga, I have come to the realisation that a lot of what I feel, and as a result write about, can be shared with people face to face surrounded by the sights and sounds of a particular place. It could be a place of popular interest. It could be an obscure pilgrimage. Or even a village fair. But what these places will have in common will be a 'calling', a special energy.

Since you all have showered me with your attention and time, I would like to invite you all to the BODHI's HOP, a journey that will take you places, not in the touristy sense of the phrase but in the mystical sense of complete immersion. Both in your Self and the place.

Even as I write this I am not sure how exactly this will unfold but I promise you that whatever form the journey takes it will never get boring...
With me, leading the HOP, will be my friend Keshav, whom I have known for a long time and who carries with him a vast experience of LIFE and readings of a very esoteric nature.

Together we hope to show you a new way around the world.
Out first HOP will happen in the first week of January with a maximum of 20 people.
So hurry and send your requests to the ID above…

Rishikesh is a funny place. The other day when I was walking towards Laxman Jhula (one of three suspension bridges in the city) I heard a street vendor yelling: “It’s a sign from god. It’s a sign…” The sign was about one metre long. All traffic had stopped for it. People of the street had made a daisy chain of hands to hold back the traffic. The snake, most probably a non-poisonous one, seemed to be in no hurry to cross the road, taking its sweet time as it slithered out from the compound of a Catholic church, that looked like a Hindu temple, to a lepers’ colony across the street.

Some lepers were trying to shoo away the reptile with their fingerless hands but the snake was nonchalance personified as it made its way inside a nearby Shiva temple. Shiva once used to be the god of all fauna. He was known as Pasupati and only later did he metamorphose into the Destroyer among the Trinity with hooded snakes coiled around his neck, arms, waist and ankles. It was indeed striking to see the snake head for the Shiva temple and not any other place. Perhaps the street vendor was right.

Later, when I was repeating the incident to Ravi, the ferry guide, he asked me whether the snake was “domestic or wild”. Domestic snakes? That got me thinking… could a snake be like a cow, domesticated and obedient? Full of milk and manure. Or a snake by common consensus is Mystery, if not complete out and out evil. It’s more often than not a sublimate of many human neuroses… from the story of Genesis to the Greek tail-devouring Ouroboros to the Aztec flying snake to Freud’s phallic interpretations. It is perhaps an example of what Rudolf Otto referred to as “mysterium, tremendum et fascinans” or an experience that is mysterious, terrifying and (yet hugely) fascinating.

The sign from god disappeared as quickly as it had appeared and the street went back to it motions. The street vendor also went back to his selling of plastic toys and bugles.

God had signed his name with a snake. And that was that.
A week ago this time we were panic-stricken (though not exactly shitting bricks... dunno why), trying to get a maulvi for our wedding. Sahar was anchoring till six pm and we had told our friends that we'd tie the proverbial knot at 9 pm sharp. But last-minute plans have a way of coming around. We were on time at Parliament Street mosque with our bunch, some dressed in jeans and sneakers, and were duly pronounced man and wife. It was an awesome and simple ceremony and the party after that rocked till 4 am with my new wife driving me home... very drunk and very tired.

The days after that have been like a dream... full of many firsts... like the garland exchange on our balcony... the rafting in Shivpuri.... sharing a tent... Sahar's swimming lesson...

Last night we also took eight rounds of the bonfire (the last one for luck). Today we have a party planned for the boys at the camp....

So in short it's been a great week... will keep you guys posted...
Much love
The other day I reacquainted myself with fear. I was trying to cross a landslide. Shifting my weight on all four, like a rock-climber minus the harness and the ropes. I was hanging on to rocks that were moving. The incline was probably 20 degree short of being vertical. The slide was like a slow-moving waterfall. A waterfall of jagged shale and rock powder that could punch holes in my skin and leave my bones crushed like china. Some of the boulders were as big as a hippo’s ass. And they would start moving at a mere touch. The cake below the icing was that I was wearing slippers and they were, well, slipping, lubricated as they were with anxious sole sweat.

We were going to a village school. Li and I. Li was here from Outward Bound Singapore with a group of school kids. And we were going to fix up a ‘visit to the village school’ trip for them. We were walking on a hill track that connects the school to the road when we suddenly realised that it had been ‘flooded’ by a slide from above. A heavy earth-mover was making a road above and the slide had been a result of all the digging above. I haven’t felt so freaked out with fear in a long time and in retrospect I can say it was fun. We crossed the slide, not once but twice, once going (unsuccessfully) towards the school, and once returning from that halfway point of realisation. I thought we were going to become Jack and Jill that day with more than a broken crown and tumble.

Now I am more in awe of the hills. Because I have seen them move. I also know that ‘rock-solid’ is not tautology as rocks can be extremely liquid and flowy.

The slide set us thinking how going to school is an adventure in the hills. You never know when the road to the school would disappear. The other way to the school was a long trek over rolling stones and boulders and a fresh water stream. It was a government school, which mostly means that the school is very basic and barely functional.

But learning here is also something else. It means daily treks. And finding new routes to the same place. It also probably means walking another kilometre or so extra (which we did) on a new route. And brushing past shrubs. Hanging on to tree trunks and roots when it gets too steep. And sometimes getting wet while crossing a stream. And landing on cow dung. For city people like me this is a new way of learning. Because going to school isn’t as automatic as taking a bus and getting off at the school gates. In the hills I guess it is a larger learning experience. And conquering your basic fears is a big part of it.
I have just acquired a kitten. Her fur is the colour of sand and dry grass. Her eyes, like Aishwarya Rai’s. I’ve named her Shanti. Shanti’s a frisky thingy whose favourite toy is her own tail. She runs after it as if it was some alien creature trying to run away from her. Only when she catches hold of it does she realise that the ‘thing’ is part of her own body. And then she gives up.

Her life so far revolves around sleeping and chasing grasshoppers and other wild insects, which are often as big as her head. She’s has no fear of humans. It’s me who’s mostly scared of her getting under people’s feet but Shanti has no such qualms as she finds her way among crowds of legs and feet. She has that exultant look about her that comes only from innocence.

I brought her from the 'other side' in a used ‘Lays’ chips bag. During the long walk from the Jungle Camp to the ferry point she kept peeping from the bag. But on the raft when she heard the roar of Return to Sender down she went into the depths of the bag. Cats certainly don’t like water… not even the sound of it!

At the Beach Camp she’s got a lot of attention. First from the school kids who were here. And then from the staff who’re all quite besotted by her. The other day she singed her eyebrows and whiskers in search of warmth. I think she went too close to the tandoor or probably the gas stove when no one was watching. I hope that’s been lesson enough. Now my aim is to prevent her from being taken away by one of the many predators in the jungle. The sparrow hawk or the maybe even a leopard. The dog at the Jungle camp, Paddle, lost his whole family to a leopard. Since then Paddle’s not been himself. He keeps awake all night barking at some imaginary predator. He sleeps most of the day. That’s Paddle. He’s been on the rapids in the Ganga and in the Zanskar in Ladakh.

I hope Shanti’s also able to achieve such feats of un-animal-like sportsmanship. But cats are cats. And you never know which of their nine lives they are living at any given moment.
(Pic: Priyanka V)Sometimes
I think
I am rumour
floating around
like a bunch
of woolly cumuli
not really solid
not really substantial
an allusion
a reference
in a conversation
a jumble of
a game of
Chinese whispers
not quite there
yet there.

Night comes on an inflatable raft. Riding the turbulence of a gazillion star bursts. Nights are amazing. They're so full of illumination. Like pinholes in a black tent.

Up above me is a densing of the illumination. It's shaped like a river. Flowing yet frozen. Like an icicle. We call it the Akash Ganga, the Ganga of the Skies. The Milky Way.

The night sky here unlike the city affords a view of this amazing river. I see this river cross paths with the Ganga, no less celestial in the Indian imagination and no less radiant.

The two rivers of light form a sort of clumsy 'X'. Every night I find myself in the crux of these two Gangas. One I can hear, the other I can see.

Every night I watch and hear a Light-and-Sound show arranged just for me to behold and take with me to my tent.

I think I am lucky.
I often wonder where I am headed. And wondering I also send a thought or two to the question of where is it that I am coming from. And the question of where do I fit in the larger scheme of things. Or whether there is any ‘larger scheme of things’. I think these thoughts in all humility knowing well that many, more capable and more evolved folk, have thought them over. And thought them well. But that still doesn’t stop me from thinking them. Because these questions are part of my DNA. And only I can answer them for myself. So I seize the day… and think.

There’s this bridge at the camp which is part of the ‘camp deal’. It’s called a Burma Bridge and it gets it name from the WW II crossing over device that the Indian (British) army used to, well, get across in treacherously terrained Burma.

At the camp this crossing over device is called Brahma Bridge. And I have over these past two weeks developed a fondness for this name. Those who know me must be smiling here sensing that this fondness is very ‘me’. At night when my head is cocked up to look at the night sky, the idea of Brahma Bridge becomes clearer to me as a device meant for crossing over to the stars. At the end of which is standing the four-headed god, sizing me up with his eight eyes. Seeing whether I qualify for the crossing over.

Yesterday I began a new chapter in my life. I had my first day at a water rafting camp in Rishikesh, actually Shivpuri. This is where I will be camp manager for next six months. The day, compared to my life in Delhi, was full of sweat and wonder. I began my day with trek to a place called 'View Point'. This is the place from where our Beach Camp can be seen.

After lunch we went to the place where the Beach Camp will be set up on the other side of the Ganga. Everything: tents, food and beds are ferried to the Beach Camp on a raft which is a huge task. In the days to come I shall find out exactly how difficult this is. To get to the Beach Camp we have to cross a rapid called Return to Sender. It's so called because a huge boulder jutting out into the river reverses the currents in such a way that everything is, well, returned.

The beach next to this rapid is often strewn with return gifts such as animal carcasses and sometimes of those humans who knowingly or unknowingly make the turbulent river their last resting place.

The stench at Return to Sender is often a precursor to visions of wild putrefaction. We saw two cows very dead and very bloated on the beach. Arjun, the river guide, also showed me my first beach skull. At first I thought it was a conch shell. But they said the river had no conches. On closer inspection I found out it was indeed a human skull lying face down in the sand. I picked it up and saw wet sand pour out of the eye sockets. the skull was connected to a loose vertebral column half encased in leather-like skin. Umm...quite like a fallen fruit: too ripe and too heavy to hang on its tree.

I returned with the euphoria of a debut. I don't know whether it was about having crossed a rapid of having touched my first beach skull.
(Pic: Priyanka V)

Sometimes I feel I have nine lives. One I am living. The other eight are living themselves. Spilling wildly out of my hands like marbles. I have no control over these rolling marbles. They are just rolling out in different directions. Being on wheels in Ladakh was like that. Here I was rolling out on a bike. In a group. But still it felt I was on a roll alone. Alone in the whole wide world. There was just the wind around me. And the road below me. And everything zipping past me like fast-motion film. I could have flown right off the road, off the map, off my web of well-wishers in a second. I could have died. Ended one of my nine lives. But I guess I wasn't curious enough...
leh, 30th august 2007

We have just returned from Pangong Tso. It's a lake big enough to be a sea. This is on the Indo-China border. Biking beside it is like flying on wheels, whatever that means. You can see the sky reflected on the lake. And clouds hanging on it like shaving foam. The sky below you shivers like mercury every time the wind blows, which is always. Pangong Tso is about 165 km long. Dry moon sand beaches come to drink from its blue.

It's an experience!

Riding right into the crosshairs of Indian Army guns and Chinese border intelligence binoculars is another.

Will write more after coming back to Delhi :)
Stretch your NOW
The 'Y' Tree (pic: Mamta S)
The mind is sea GREEN.

Dark. Mysterious. And full of secrets.

There’s submergence.
The green gets darker at the bottom. With sand and sea moss.
The mind is full of memories. Some from a very, very long ago past. Some from other lifetimes.
The mind has seen many ships.
Some that lost their cargo to it.
The mind is full of sand and moss covered secrets.

And then some people are divers.
They dive deep into their minds and find memories that they have no memory of.
Was that me? Did I really do those things? How was I involved?
And then the divers wonder…
Maybe I have always been just one. A huge mind,

After much deliberation and rumination she spoke weighing each word with her thick-fat tongue.

“What is the point of this meeting… anyone?” This was just after John Marrow had been officially declared a vegetable. “I come in pieces,” Cowshellya Rani was trying hard to impress, finding recourse to flowery language. But flowery language too had its limitations. Between her never-stopping teeth language had also been reduced to a cud that she threw around, like her weight, every time she called a meeting.

“Peace is what you probably mean,’ said Grass Kumar, quivering at the sight of the Cowshellya Rani’s never-stopping teeth. “Is there a plural of peace?” asked Cowshellya Rani, parting her lips a tad sideways to smile. This time no one spoke for the plural of anything meant many. And being many was simply an invitation to be eaten. And no one wanted that. Even Grass Kumar was called just Grass and not Grasses even though he was many.

“You know it’s not like the old times now,” said Cowshellya Rani sighing, “I have changed”. As a sign of this change she gave the vegetable Marrow a lick on the cheek. A gasp was heard running through the hall. Unsaid words fell to the ground like melted ice-cream forming puddles of unsaid words and flowed in different directions causing much unsaid confusion.

“Can I be allowed to speak?” Baigun Khan came forward. “I think we’re getting too coloured by history. And we can’t let that happen. Can we?” A round of applause followed Baigun Khan’s suggestion and all present started hugging each other. But no one dared go near Cowshellya Rani, even though she smiled more than usual.

That hurt her much. When she couldn’t bear the pinch of not getting a hug any longer Cowshellya Rani mooed out so loud that everyone shook and shivered. “Will I never get a damn hug?” Hearing this everyone stopped hugging, waiting for Cowshellya Rani’s need for attention and intimacy to pass.

They had suffered heavily under her reign. Even the memory of those horrible times was enough to send chills down their spines. They were, after all creatures of the soil. And Cowshellya Rani had in the twinkling of an eye polished off many a green pasture. Therefore Cowshellya Rani’s change of heart felt awkward and incredible and those present were not about to err on the side of caution by hugging her.

“You know, another reason why I called this meeting…” Cowshellya Rani spoke seeing that none among those present had shown any interest in hugging her. “…is to tell you that from now on I have vowed to turn humanitarian. Meaning I will only feast on the two-legged kind.” Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. And gradually they all started moving towards Cowshellya Rani so that they could hug her.

and yesterday I sat
smoking a new leaf
and wetting the lashes
of your watchers
and filling my cavities
with your neck
and eating the darkness
behind your ears
and feeling the wire
around your cups
and drawing fingertracks
on your back
and sucking red marks
on your stomach
and breathing the holes
of your fingers
and putting your thighs
in the 'at ease' position
and fighting
your strong-hungry soul
and then,
wearing you
like a pyjama.

Pic by Moses S
So, what did you dream?
I dreamt I was sleeping.
That's boring, no?
No, but I was sleepwalking.
In the dream?
And then?
I dreamt I was sleeping.
No, sleeping on my bed.
Which is what you were actually doing.
Must have been confusing?
No, why?
I don't know… but isn't that a lot of sleeping?
Yes, I was really tired.

Soon after the promotion came Ram Dhakeli's birthday. It was an equinoctial September day when day and night have equal hours. Ram Dhakeli was to get her share of equality too. MD-saab's Amitabh Bachchan voice had already filled her head with the hum of a budding heartache. That day, she got to sit in the exalted MD office. It was her first. MD-saab was a man of few words: whenever she answered his office bell it was to take orders and nothing more. That day MD-saab asked her to sit down on the squeaky leather chair meant for those with whom he wished to discuss work. It was the first time Ram Dhakeli was to look into MD-saab eyes and catch him smiling behind them.

That warm September day was also circled red on MD-saab's personal calendar. It was the beginning of his spring.

At the first squeak of Ram Dhakeli's leather chair MD-saab began his dry-mouthed monologue.

"Ram Dhakeli, your work is very good," he said and cleared his throat. "In fact, it is very, very good." He stopped and nodded meaningfully at Ram Dhakeli and cleared his throat again as if his words needed help coming out. And in that silent pull and push of words MD-saab suddenly slumped into a reverie. The cotton sari that hugged Ram Dhakeli's slender fairness cream neck was gradually sliding off it. The inside of MD-saab mouth felt like desert sand. His lips too were on fire. But continue, he had to. "Please quit this job, Ram Dhakeli." There was that look on his face that begged another clearing of throat. But he wasn't allowed. Ram Dhakeli's eyes were on him piercing his soul with a look that butchers sometimes see in the eyes of their kills. "I want you to come and work for me… in my house," MD-saab offered clumsily to melt the tension in the air.

Ram Dhakeli was disappointed. This was not what she thought he had called her for. "No saab, I am happy here," she said locking her harmonium-player fingers into a lattice of skin and bones. The chair squeaked again. The squeaks were like a cue. The birthday bonanza had been cued to a halt. She got up to leave but MD-saab waved her down with a halfway salute. She sat down. "Please take your time, Ram Dhakeli. You are after all a woman, a young woman. Unmarried, I mean alone. Please take your time. Think about the future."

Ram Dhakeli was new to the politics of words. She stood up again. This time MD-saab didn't stop her. When she was at the door MD-saab swung something round and metallic at her. It touched her at the sensitive hollow of her fairness cream back. The sound of metal on floor made her turn around and inspect the fallen object. It was a ring, a solid 22-karat, weighty and stoned with the precious niners. Emerald, pearl, garnet, opal, turquoise, ruby, sapphire, amethyst and diamond. Nine stones for the nine planets. The whole universe on a finger. Ram Dhakeli had up until then only envied women with this sort of power. Never in her wildest dreams had she thought she would become one of them. "It's for you, keep it and think about my proposal," said MD-saab as he thrummed on his wide forehead. "You may go now, Ram Dhakeli. You may go now…"

Ram Dhakeli was frozen. She couldn't get her harmonium-player fingers to strike the right notes or her vocal chords to express gratitude. MD-saab was staring at her unblinkingly, like an owl. His fingers still danced on his forehead. It signified nothing significant. He just liked the sensation. Like horses galloping on his head. For MD-saab this was a big gamble. The power and prestige of his exalted office hinged achingly on the reply of a mere woman, a widow and a member of the fourth-class.

"Dhanya…. dhanya…. dhanya," spluttered Ram Dhakeli like a frigid car engine. She should have stuck to something less speechy like 'Thank you', she thought.

"It's okay, Ram Dhakeli. It's all right. Theak hai." MD-saab allowed himself a smile, his first on that warm September day.

He repeated the 'Theak Hai's till his voice was trapped and sound-proofed by a mesh-wall of words. Ram Dhakeli recalled MD-saab's 'Theak Hai's later at night when she was lying on a string cot: her bed and bedroom. She was after all freshly 22, in love and suddenly a bride-to-be again.

Sleep came on invisible ant legs and crawled all over her. It began at her feet, covering her like a blanket. Ram Dhakeli dreamed of MD-saab and his wonderful Scutler Palace house. It was a confused dream for it was a palace-house she'd never seen before yet it filled her with a strange and paradoxical been-there-ness.
Residential colonies are turning up in Brotherpur like broken promises. There's no one who doesn't know anyone near whose house one is coming up. The old You Pee forest office used to be at the entrance of a balding forest. The new one is two kilometres down into where the forest used to be. Between them is a complex of houses. It is called Mookharji Housing Colony. The stubbornly unlettered and uninformed call it Farest Awepiss Calony. The new You Pee forest office is a king without a kingdom. You Pee has no more forests left since the creation of You See, a new and separate state. But the Brotherpur Builders' Association is toasting daily to an encouraging new trend. The growth of complex housing in Brotherpur and its neighbouring areas.

The forest department's new building is modest by old Farest Awepiss standards. It hasn't yet grown roots and trees like the old Farest Awepiss wall cracks. It is gobar brown in colour making it invisible at night. A blue and white Forest Office neon sits on it like a firefly on a dung heap. The six-storey building has a head who's known Miltree Sir of Budge House for the last 45 years.
Pic by Lisa S.
They used to be thick as kachha legs once. But now the pals are not on speaking terms. When Miltree Sir was a jailbird the curiously abbreviated ADMD or assistant deputy managing director of the Forest Department---for he was not its one and only MD then---refused to use his powerful connections. This souring of their friendship produced much bitterness. Now 'Managing Director, Forest Department' and Miltree Sir have left the bridge-building to Ram Dhakeli.

She is the woman in their lives.

There was a time when Ram Dhakeli was freshly single by marriage. She had also just inherited her late husband Putti Lal's fly-swotting job at the new Farest Awepiss. Putti Lal was done in by a bull, a night after he mounted an equally unwilling shadi steed. Somehow Putti Lal was not much liked by hoofed and horned creatures. Not much, however, is known about the exact circumstance of Putti Lal's bull-ring antics, but friendly consensus has it that he had been trying to mount the bull from the front. The friendly consensus could also be wrong because the friends were drunk on a strong local brew known for its instant kick.

But then they could also be right for Putti Lal too had absorbed large quantities of the same instant-kick brew.

A week's mourning later Ram Dhakeli was a 'fully' working widow, two careers she'd never wished for. She was shattered like a glass pane stunned by a full-toss sixer. But the 'on compassionate grounds' job was putty to her glass pane. The wounds were soon crowded with putty 'overtime' slips that the MD signed with mysterious glee.

Those days Ram Dhakeli hated going home after work. Home had turned into a mausoleum where the late Putti Lal kept an eye on her from behind dead objects. A steel-frame picture of a young and smiling Putti Lal watched her from a quick-limed white wall. The late matador sighed at his one-night wife from the steel-frame, every night, night after night.

Then luck grinned on Ram Dhakeli. She was promoted to the MD floor by an office scam involving a certain Shaky Shook-La. This happened in the first month of her joining Forest Office. Shaky Shook-La or human resource Shook-La was his office's Gibralter. But he couldn't stop shaking. The shaking could be traced back to a childhood shock. He'd found stuffed in his lunch box a black as coal snake! And he'd been shaking since. But the snake, in that brief exchange, had managed to transfer its properties to Human Resource Shook-La. For a firing and hiring man Shook-La was probably not great press but of its finer workings he was a grand master. But Shaky died of a cardiac arrest. It stopped his shaking. That was his second and last shock.

Shaky Shook-La owed money to two junior peons. Always a man of principles, Shaky never played with his own money at the card dens. In lieu of the money he often promised promotions to fourth class employees. But to the two junior peons he had promised the moon: the extremely coveted post of P2MD or Peon to Managing Director.

In Ram Dhakeli Shaky Shook-La suddenly saw a solution. He threw up his hands and said, "What can I say, pal!" to both junior peons and ended the matter by pointing a shaky finger to the Great One Upstairs. It was all thanks to Shaky Shook-La's shaky finger that Ram Dhakeli became P2MD and the object of many killer-looks during lunch with the other peons. The Fourth Class Karamchari Union (or FCKU) of You Pee also passed a resolution against the move but didn't do much because Putti Lal was a founder member who died prematurely at 25 having started his fly-swotting career at 17 in the old Farest Awepiss.

For Ram Dhakeli the job spelt ESCAPE in blue and white Forest Office-neon; from Putti Lal's photo-haunted mausoleum in the stinky FCKU Colony in old Brotherpur to an air-conditioned waiting room next to the most powerful post in the building.

The job was a fat cow loll. The days passed swotting flies and preventing people from entering MD-saab's exalted hideout. A bonus was to hear MD-saab's Amitabh Bachchan voice through a glass partition as he managed You Pee's vanishing forests. On the other side of the partition MD-saab felt in his loins the tinkling of Ram Dhakeli's widow bangles.

It’s two o’clock on the moon. And the sun is going down into the Sea of Tranquility. Going down, the sun is giving off rainbow sparks, looking like a huge diamond set in a platinum ring. The Sea isn’t so much a sea as it is a sand-pit where wind and gravity both have no meaning. That’s why it’s strange to see the sun go ‘down’ in it. It’s stranger to see footprints on the Sea.

From where we are the moon looks like a ball of scars. Many poetic comparisons have likened it to the height of beauty. Or that essential lack of perfection, which makes beauty, captivating. And human. Without the scars the moon would be just a neon sign. Bright and boring. Like a cheap advertisement for the Milky Way. Like a bright and boring ‘M’ fronting a sea of smaller neons. Without the scars the moon would not be the moon.

I met Eugene Cernan when he was in Delhi as Brand Ambassador for Omega watches. Time and Space, the old friends, were yet again making a spectacle of themselves. It was a ‘watch-ful’ evening at a five-star hotel. The ‘last man to walk on the moon’ was not as mooney-eyed as I’d expected him to be. Maybe because time had turned magic into science. It had been a long time since he returned from his space mission. It was also a time when space missions had lost their novelty. But an interview had to be done. Questions had to be asked. What’s more, my own curiosity about Time and Space had to be satisfied.

How did Time feel up there? I asked him, not knowing where to start. Not knowing whether my knowledge of astronomy would suffice to know the things that I wanted to. “Time was very elusive on the moon. It was like living in a dream,” he told me, “the only thing that connected me to reality as I knew it was my Omega Speedmaster, which was still set to Houston time.” Was he trying to the plug the watch company that had brought him here? Or was it a real-philosophical bridge between his inner and outer realities? He smiled sagely like only a moon-returned man can and said, “I know what you mean. But no, my watch was really my window to what I had left behind. Through it I had a sense of what my wife and kids were up to back home. And that was a very comforting knowledge.” And the window, how was the view from there? “Like looking back from God’s front porch. There was our world… blue-green and very fragile and then there was solid blackness that surrounded it.”

I was getting curiouser. Especially how the moon had changed him, his way of looking at things. “I am now more aware of my place, our place, in the universe.” Was that all? Was that all a trip to the moon had done to him personally? I didn't tell him that. And I returned disappointed from the hotel that evening. But now years later, when I sit at my machine imagining the moon I have Cernan to thank for. Like the 11 before him and the thousands of others before the advent of flying machines, Cernan had not just been to the moon and back but had been claimed by its most famous scar, the Sea of Tranquility. Forever silenced. Tranquillized. Fallen into peace.

One more from the Khajjiar trip! This tree I found on the way back, staring into some distant past or future. Like the Eye of Horus: fixated, hungry and unblinking. A scar that has cried buckets of tree sap; now dry-eyed, un-sad and un-hopeful of ever pulling out of its hat a branch, like a magician. Yet it is not unknown to magic. Change. Transformation. Autumn. Spring. Flowers. Fruit. Birds. Bees. Monkeys. Snakes. Life.
Mostly because it can see. All the time.
Khajjiar, May 12, 2007: "It's like you're living your life in the negative," says Jassi, my friend, "'coz that's when people have white hair, no?" This sets me thinking. Thinking whether the silver in my hair is actually photo-sensitive; clicking and carrying pictures straight to my brain, bypassing normal conductance through the eyes. And thinking this, I stray alone towards a blue bridge.

On the blue bridge, I--like a psychopomp--face two worlds. One green and meadowy. The other black, hole-ish and watery. A small reed island licks the water like a tongue. Like the hands of Time on a clock-face. It's a floating island. An island within an island. An island of hydrophytes on an island of water. The reed-island is an indeterminate dirty-green. More dirty than green. It's probably brought from another planet as non-living spores.

The lake is where the meteor may have hit the ground and spiralled like a huge oil drill into the earth.

Like a loud cosmic fuck. As an interplanetary intercourse.

Some say the lake's a bottom-less pit. No-one has ever come of it out alive. The fear of it has probably not allowed many to go in it in the first place. But myths have low tolerance for details. Myths are like loud cosmic fucks.

Fucks that have no cause, no reason. They just happen, as they say, like that.

Later when browsing through a picture-book on Himachal, I am told that the bottom-less pit is actually one arm of an underground horseshoe. The other arm opens at another lake. Lake Rewalsar near Mandi. Together the two lakes make a bottom-less pit. Bottom-less, but with two mouths.

Not even the animals graze near the lake. They say because it is banked by shifting layers of wet, black earth. Or some alien loam that breathes and lives. And perhaps swallows those who come too close. The animals have learned their lesson, I guess the hard way.

On a stone-paved road around the meadow, tourists take horse-rides on domesticated ponies feeling like Chengis Khan storming down the steppes. Inside, on the golf-course green, eager boys sell strange, vision-altering rides. Para-gliding for 500. Zorbing for 200. Some even sell 'original folksongs' on their lyres. I spot one 'walking' a rabbit on a leash. "What's that for?" I ask Jassi. "Pictures," he says. Meaning you can pose with the rabbit and feel lucky and adventurous.

Or maybe the rabbit's for sniffing out rabbit-holes. Like pigs, trained for sniffing out truffles. The rabbit, I think, is a hole-hunter. Looking for rabbit-holes into which people can fall. And enter other worlds.
Pic: Vivek B
The womb is a machine where we are made from scratch. It's a manufacturing unit. A factory of limbs. And organs. And mind. And heart. A place of hectic activity where electrical sparks fly,
like the welder's torch, day and night as new synapses crackle to life. The womb is also a zorb. Our first experience of gravity. And hanging upside down. Suspended. Warm. Comfortable. Enjoying the thrill of being alive. Or getting there. The womb is also the place where we first experience the fear of falling. The fear of death. The fear of the machine shutting down.
That's me and my friend Jassi experience rebirth in Khajjiar, a meadow believed to have been formed by a meteor hit.

what you see is not always worth believing,
and what you don't
is often the unbelievable truth.
This single eye
or the Eye of Horus
I now wear 'round my neck so that
what it sees is also
what comes out of my mouth
as the unbelievable truth
that my two eyes fail to see.
1. Pick out a scar you have, and explain how you got it.
It's a dog-flower shape on my right Achilles' tendon, caused by an over-heated bike silencer. In the beginning the dog used to bark but now it's been silenced.

2. What is on the walls in your room?
Hatshepsut. She is a lizard who kills mosquitoes for me. The lazy bitch sleeps through winter as if it's one long Christmas holiday.

3. What does your phone look like?
It's called American Idol, which is funny coz it doesn't sing. It's a silver camera phone that can reach places bigger, better and stronger cameras can't. I know what you're thinking, dirty pervs!

4. What music do you listen to?
Percussions. Any sound produced when hands strike on hollow surfaces. Must have been all the experience at school. I was an outstanding student. So outstanding that sometimes I had to take special permission to see what the classroom looked like.

5. What is your current desktop picture?
A biking picture from my Ladakh trip last year. The snows on the mountain-tops help me keep cool, especially when Hot… sorry… Hatshepsut has not been doing her job well.

6. What do you want more than anything right now?
Right now, I would like to bury myself inside a huge… a really huge… watermelon and then eat way out, like a worm.

7. Do you believe in gay marriage?
Of course… show me one person who doesn't. They're supposed to be happy occasions, aren't they?

8. What time were you born?
At the 11th hour. You can say I was a born procrastinator.

9. Are your parents still together?
Yes. I guess they're just too lazy.

10. What are you listening to?
And old, German rock-star who thinks she's singing the Mahamritunjaya.

11. Do you get scared of the dark?
No. I just think of how the blind must feel all the time and thank God for giving me eyes that work.

12. The last person to make you cry?
The elderly lady who came to my place for the census survey. First she asked me all sorts of personal questions and then she tried to fix me up with a niece of her cousin in Bhatinda. When I said no to her proposal, she wanted me to get her high school-failed son a job.

13. What is your favourite Cologne?
I think the other German city… Munich is my favourite. The beer's much better there.

14. What kind of hair/eye colour do you like on the opposite sex?
Blue hair and yellow eyes. I like my women sober and understated.

15. Do you like pain-killers?
Yes, very much. I mix them in water and give them to my plants. That way they don't have any growing pains.

16. Are you too shy to ask someone out?
No, I usually just show them the door. The rest they manage on their own.

17. Favorite pizza topping?
Coke. Especially when it's free with the pizza.

18. If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?
A horse, what else?

19. Who was the last person you made mad?
I think most of them were just born that way… or maybe I am too shy to take credit.

20. Is anyone in love with you?
My building's dog for sure. He's always running after me with his tongue hanging out.

This is a tag that Sweet Scout has arm-twisted me into taking. Please feel free to tag yourself if you like the sound of it.
And then just when I am about to shut the door I remember I have forgotten something inside. A piece of paper or something like that. Written. Or typed. Something important. I call out to the someone inside. Someone who I've just met and said goodbye to. I call out, "Can you please gimme that... I seem to have left it by your bedside". Bedside?

I remember suddenly that the someone I am calling out to can't leave his bedside. I can't remember why. Maybe, he's unwell. Or maybe, he's an invalid. And that is why I have paid him a visit. I am thinking all this yet not making any effort to go back and collect the piece of paper or that something important that I have left behind.

I am probably waiting for a confirmation from inside that the piece of paper or that something important that I think I have left behind has been actually left behind. There. Or at some previous place I have visited. Like the place I am coming from. Or the place where I live. I am expecting this someone, who is inside to call out to me and say something like, "It's not here," or "Come and get it". But instead at the door, where the doorbell is, suddenly appears a hand... just a hand... a hand holding a piece of paper. Or the something I had forgotten inside. A voice, belonging in all probability to the hand, calls out from inside asking, "Is this what you're looking for?"

And I am thinking, 'What a lazy motherfucker!' And then I think, 'No, it's more than just motherfucking laziness'. And then it hits me. The hand. And it being there at the door all by itself. And as it hits me, the hair at the back of my neck begin to rise.

An uneasy feeling of being watched from all sides by invisible eyes overcomes me. And an electric impulse coursing up from the base of my spine to my neck, forks into two and goes round and round my head telling me that I have been asking all the wrong questions. At the wrong places. And suddenly I decide to flee. Too scared to look back if the hand holding that piece of paper, or that something important, is coming after me.

And then sleep, that had come riding on soft sheep shoulders, flees like a gust of hot afternoon breeze leaving me in a sweat so cold I could freeze.
Some nights sleep comes counting, softly on a cloud of woolly sheep. And then the cloud bursts and turns into a nightmare, curing the sheep of their habitual innocence. These clouds have inside their cloud-centres thunder and lightening, which produce monstrous, transmogrifying storms of images and sound. Nightmares. These nightmares change everything. Change the habitual innocence of normal, everyday perception into something screamingly dark, horrible and paranoid.

This is the fear of awareness. Awareness of something bad and evil that has happened in the past, both individual and genetic, and will again somewhere in the future. This is also the fear of possibilities. Evil possibilities. The possibility of the good turning ugly. Of rancidity and sourness and fungification. Of dazzling star-bursts containing within them the devastation of a nuclear blast.
'Gimme back
my shape,'
the noodle moon
cried at the water;
the water
just smiled,
held its breath
and said,
'come get it'.
The camera is panning the living area of a biggish flat, taking in details of an L-shaped room… the grey terrazzo floor, the dog-bitten legs of a sofa chair. There's also a print of Munch's Scream on the wall screaming through the head of a tennis racquet hanging over it and a blue-green octopus scowling in the centre of the room from inside a fishbowl.

The late morning sun is entering the room as projector beams carrying in them dust motes, like phantom cables connecting the window to the door. The camera turns at the 'L', enters the kitchen and stops at an electric kettle that is whistling away, waiting to be rescued from the heat in its stomach. The camera zooms onto the stainless steel surface of the kettle and catches a glimpse of a man's wet-haired face.

He has just come out of the shower. He is young-looking, thin and long-haired. He is wearing a white towel around his waist. The camera moves behind him, framing him in the kitchen doorway in a slightly out-of-focus blur. From the back his movements suggest he is pouring himself some coffee from the kettle. As soon as he puts the kettle down, the doorbell rings. "Awffuck," the man says loudly.

As he absent-mindedly turns towards the door his hand hits the water-cooler. The mug falls from his hand and he lets out a painful yelp as the hot coffee splashes on his legs and feet. The mug slo-mos down, hits the floor and breaks into two. The bell rings again. This time it sounds very loud and urgent, like an echo of his scream.

The man lifts his legs, one by one, into the kitchen sink and opens the tap to pour water on his feet. He then limps his way to the door. When he reaches the door the bell stops ringing. The man says, "Awffuck," as his face contorts in a mixture of pain and anger.

He opens the chain lock and the latch and swings the door open as if ready to spray the landing with bullets. There is no one at the door. The camera takes his place at the door staring into the empty landing and then into the stair-well.

There is no one.

Terror takes hold of his face as he raises his arm to block an invisible attack. The door slams shut. The man's familiar scream rings out from behind the door. Darkness from the edges of the frame begins closing in on the keyhole from which is staring an eye.
Pic by Sahar ZSeeing is a way of looking. Searching for that moment in time and space that speaks to us. Says something other moments have never said. Or ever will. The eye is always looking for stimulation. Candy. Meaning in things. Moving things. Unmoving things. And those that once used to.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Remembering John and four years of Iraq
It is the tree with perhaps the oldest genes. And within them is stored millions of years of evolutionary know-how. That the mythologies of west Asia have it mentioned glowingly is ample proof of the palm's ancientness and utility. From pharaonic Egypt to early Christian (Palm Sunday being an example) to Islamic iconography, the palm is everywhere. Even the erotic capital of medieval India takes its name from it. Khajuraho comes from Khajur or the date-palm that the guide there claims were once found in abundance in the area.
Not only is the palm the same as the word for the magical human extremity, that with its opposable thumb is understood to have had a huge a hand in human progress and within whose cushiony depression lie the lines of fate, it is also its design analogue.

The palm and its fingers. It is the same hand that rocks the cradle, writes, hurls grenades and sometimes gets us off.

The palm is also an oasis. Abundance in the midst of want. Like a palm holding dollars notes. Like a much-wanted holiday in the midst of swaying palms, the sea and a chilled bubbly waiting to be popped.

The fronds that hold the entrance of Sahara Ganj in Lucknow are shaped like a fish or an eye and that is 'showing' and not 'looking' or maybe doing both. The fish once used to snuggle into the coat of arms of the House of Awadh whose forebears came from Nishapur in Iran. Every big house and mansion doorway had the two-fish insignia perhaps out of deference to the rulers. Maybe it was just fashionable to do so.
Today the two-fish insignia is the official seal of the Uttar Pradesh state government. This lamp-post is one of the many that line the gravel path to Bahu Begum ka Maqbara in Faizabad. The interesting thing about the fishes here is that they are convexly placed instead of the usual arch shape that is theirs on doorways and in the official government seal. I don't think there is any special meaning behind the convex arrangement. It is simply a design compulsion.

The palms towering above the lamp-post are huge, almost like obelisks. Like the gates of some nether world. A world hidden but for its gates. A world mostly invisible in the noise outside. This city once used to be the capital of Awadh. Much before that the gods used to roam around here. And those palms there have seen it all.
There was a time when TVs were kept in the drawing room... now they have moved to the bedroom and other private spaces.

These three I found sitting outside a repair shop... I just liked the way the three are framed with the vinyl ad in the background... and the broken screen and the misspelt 'Service' in Devanagri on TV number three.

This repair shop is in Lucknow, otherwise referred to as Brotherpur in this blog.

Today, I am the delusion of 11 hundred dogs
chasing the moon with hard-ons
And I am the hunger of five thousand lions...
carved into a corner

Public Library gargoyle, Allahabad, 2007

I saw her sitting under a banyan tree. Alone. Abandoned by her worshippers. Or maybe she asked them to leave her alone.

She was sitting on her swan, made of clay. I found myself immediately drawn to her. To her dishevelled appearance... it was almost as if she was taking a break from some hectic work. A hectic process of creation.

You'd notice that everything about her speaks of a certain maddening 'busy-ness'. She's too busy to notice that her swan has lost its colour. Or that her jewellery is all askew. Or that her hair needs combing. Or that her veena is missing from the top. I also like the empty cup behind her. It means much coffee has been consumed during this process of creation.

But no one has really seen her work. Except probably the trees. And in their appreciation they have dropped their leaves on and around her. Like a confetti shower.

She will probably also write on the leaves. Not with a pen but like a CD writer writes on CDs. Burns them. I like that usage… 'burning CDs'… sounds very fiery!

The trees around her will one day also turn into paper. They may also become instruments of music. Or furniture. And the knowledge that she has whispered to them will surface on them as words, music or the singing comfort of repose.

Saraswati, the busy goddess of wisdom. Seen here burning music for the cosmos!
There is a reptilian frenzy in the way warm breath passes through the tumescence of a gourd. A dried gourd. In Hindi called a 'been'. Now, become a 'has-been' because the Government suddenly decided to invoke the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The warm breath whips up inside the been a sort of soprano storm, coming out from its other end as the sound of a thousand horses, screaming.

No wonder the snake is charmed. Raising his head, lest he be crushed under the hooves of a thousand horses.

Above is a picture of about a 100 snake-charmers playing 'Amazing Grace' on their gourds. They also played 'Auld Lang Syne' that Hawa Singh, their leader, said they had picked up while playing with the bag-pipers in Scotland during a Festival of India.

There used to be a time when India was known as the Land of Snake-charmers and the Great Indian Rope Trick was a metaphor of all sorts of woozy Indianisms that surpassed western logic and understanding.

Now we have a snake-charmers' wind symphony that plays Amazing Grace.

dis·am·big·u·ate (dis'am-big'yoo-at'): To establish a single grammatical or semantic interpretation…

I have been playing with this word ever since I saw it for the first time on wikipedia. And have been wondering whether it is really necessary to 'disambiguate' in order to understand.

I think disambiguation is an oxymoron because a word by definition 'puts into words' an idea or concept or action.

So if a word is not doing its job then it is not quite a word. And if it is not a word, then what is it doing in a sentence? Is it a silent punctuation? Written but not read out. Or maybe, an as-yet-undiscovered part(icle) of speech?

This photo-collage is an attempt at looking from all sides at the semantics of the word: disambiguation.

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
--Father of the Atom Bomb J. Robert Oppenheimer's famous quote describing the 'Trinity Test' or the first atomic explosion in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Oppenheimer was paraphrasing Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

Walking on Brahma's lake is not to be confused with walking on water. They are two entirely different things. Brahma's lake is a vortex. A lotus leaf-shaped vortex that pulls into itself everything. And yet like the lotus leaf nothing sticks to it. The lake is small--you could call it a small lake or a large pond. It's actually a huge hall of mirrors, containing reflections and reflections of reflections and their reflections and theirs and theirs. 'Everything' is contained in it. In it everything is also upside-down. It's like looking down a long tunneling telescope. A spooky continuum with no end. Memories are stored here from no-one knows when. But the lake and its immediate surroundings are quiet like a muted TV. It's as if everything--people, animals, buildings--is stunned by what there is to behold here.

This is Brahma's safety locker. And tool kit. In it lies the blueprint of his grandest illusion. Life.

People come from different corners of the world to stare into this abyss. But it's not really an abyss. It just seems like one. The stories say Shiva had rained thousands of human skulls into the lake as a mark of protest. Now this was Brahma's havan-kund or sacrificial well and throwing skulls in it is not only blasphemous but also unthinkable. But Brahma's greatness was his silence. He simply refused to react. If there is evil there is also goodness. If there is peace there is also aggression. If there is a creator there is also a destroyer. That's the way I have created it. That's the way to equilibrium… the way to my wisdom, Brahma must have thought. The skulls have by now dissolved and turned into a white powder.

Pushkar also has the only (or only other) Brahma temple in the country. They also have a story for it but the more plausible reason seems to be that no-one really needed the old chap. His work as creator was over and done with long ago. So Vishnu, the sustainer, and Shiva, the destroyer, became more relevant. And Brahma remained in his ivory tower, perhaps creating other worlds.

While Krishna is Vishnu's avatar, he is also the human form of the trinity, which is why he is also called the purnavatar or complete incarnation.
In our journey Krishna is a camel. A sharp but temperamental 8-year-old who sometimes bolts like a speed-walker, sometimes refuses to move, snorting deeply with bared teeth. This happens especially when he sees a fork in the road, one clearly leading to his master's house, where food and rest await him. We're behind Krishna in the cart with Pawan, his driver. Lina, Serge, Kalima and I are taking a camel ride into another world. And Krishna is our charioteer. Krishna is also time on four padded feet.

In another reality, a certain white powder is making its presence felt at the ghats in Pushkar. And this time it is not the foreigners doing 'that shit'. "It's the local boys who are getting hooked," says Kalima. It's like bringing coal to Newcastle. Tourist dollars have brought in an expensive numbness for the soul. A new sniffable 'shanty-shanty'! There was a time when bhang or hemp balls would suffice. Then came the foreign liquor. Now the flavour of the season is coke.

"You saw Hariprasad Chaurasia performance, Kali Ma?" a guy in red trousers and shirt asks suddenly appearing before our table at Sun Set Café. "No," says Kalima. "You remember last Shivaratri, Kali Ma?" he asks again. "I don't want to have this conversation. Please go. Goodbye," says Kalima. The man in red salutes Kalima as if she's just given him a medal and walks away smiling. "You saw his eyes?" she asks us as soon as he's gone, "I saw him sniffing over there… he was just making small talk trying to cover up… everyone here is getting hooked on to that stuff".

Krishna is taking us to Kalima's favourite place in the whole world. It's village called Ajaypal. It is named after the founder of Pushkar, Ajay Pal Chauhan. We are going to a place where there are strange energies. Like the lake some 12 kilometres behind us. 'The Place' is an old temple from where a gnarled old tree stares into a cross-shaped step-well below. The wind is singing here. An old song-less tune that's probably the sound of the Big Bang, broken down into single notes and then remixed. The sun is also playing hide-and-seek behind a herd of sheep clouds. Somewhere in the far telescoping distance a peacock family is fluttering its wings.
We have left Krishna and Pawan behind at Aloo Baba's hut. Aloo Baba is a potato-eater. He eats nothing else. "Why get used to things you will have trouble finding in the jungle," he explains. Aloo Baba's has just finished constructing a 'guffa' for himself. It's a natural niche among the rocks that he has walled off with bricks and cement. A 'naturally-manmade' cloister! Aloo Baba's also made a platform for the Eye Rock. The Eye Rock is a cure for persistent cough, he tells us. But you have to pass through it seven times. Like a thread passes through a needle.

A wide dirt track takes us to Ajaypal. Under the midday sun the track is glittering with silica flakes like pieces from smashed CDs. Some silica is also 'growing' on pieces of marble. These rocks are like works of art. 'Maya rocks' we call them because you see in them what you want to.

Back in Pushkar, at Sun Set Café the evening, our last, has just begun. We are sitting by Brahma's lake sipping ginger-lemon chai with apple crumble from the nearby German bakery. Having Kalima in your midst is like sitting in the VIP box. Everyone nods to her. Her name, 'Kalima', also adds to the weight of her personality. "Kali Ma, Kali Ma," the children shout and run after our cart. Kali as we call her loves the comparison. She's been a sadhu and continues to be one though not in the obvious garb of an ascetic. We are a night away from Shivaratri, and Kali is ready for her role at the occasion. "Your husband's celebrations," one balding man stops by to remind her with folded hands and a smile. Kali says something to him about the celebrations back in the old days. He agrees and then parts.
The sun is now hanging over Brahma's lake like a sigh. The evening musicians are out. Ours is one of the older ones. And he's playing something so deep and haunting that he could well be gliding his bow over the lake. Lina recognises it as a Meera bhajan and starts to sing with him. Lina, German like Kali, has been in India for about three decades. She requests him for something in Raga Yaman. "Hum it for me," he tells her, "I don't know Yaman." Lina does and begins singing, as Serge looks the other way pretending not to hear his wife.

Two black-hatted Lubavitch rabbis are on their evening rounds. "To convert people," Lina had observed the evening before to which Wolfgang, who we'd just met, had protested rather strongly, "There is no conversion in Judaism". We had all agreed that they were only speaking to the Israelis. Waiting like black-hatted lifeguards on Brahma's timeless beach.

Under the ancient banyan tree, next to where the humble palmist looks daily into the future is Andre, in white kurta and pyjamas doing a slow-motion tandav or last dance. His is a daily performance under the banyan tree. Andre is a goner, like quite a few people here who have walked on Brahma's lake and never come back. They are here only in body. "He's totally lost it now. He's done some good work on rubbish collection here… but after his lover's family got him a wife, Andre's gone totally cuckoo," says Kali.

The nagara drums are now beginning to gather momentum. A violet haze is gathering over where the sun has just sunk. Directly opposite at Sun Set, Wolfgang and I are savouring the last few moments of Brahma's silence. And then out of the violet haze emerges the dark, grinning face of Miss Rose. "I do Reiki, Swedish massage and all sorts of body healing… if you want anything… just anything… smokes, powder, paper, pills, anything just call me… My name is Miss Rose." We thank Miss Rose and decide it is time to leave. I for Delhi And Wolfgang for I don't know where...
It was the day of the 'Silent Moonless Night' when my friend Keshav and I walked and walked on a road of sand and footprints and many bridges. Perhaps a distance of six kilometres. We walked bare-feet with about a million other feet. Strangers, whose paths we may have only touched tangentially at say a traffic stop or a train station, became fellow-travellers and confidants in this walk over sand, footprints and bridges.
Pic by Keshav C
Back-stories were shared. Of how ordinary men who had committed acts of sizzling cruelty had changed after becoming sadhus. One young man told me how he had became a 'bhagoda' (a man on the run) after he'd rammed his jeep into a cop because he had beaten him up for no reason. "After that I never looked back… just drove on and on and on… when I reached home I was new person. Ready to leave everything I had known in my earlier life," he explained. After his admission to the akhara he got a new name and a new life as a sadhu. Another, Captain Baba, a veteran of three wars, too dropped everything to enter the akhara. He said the memories of the wars were driving him mad.

We walked with the sadhus. On a road especially barricaded for them. To separate them from the common devotees. And on this road they danced and sang and performed their peculiar acrobatics. It was also a show of strength and fervour. To the birds above we may have seemed like a giant snake. Blackish and sprinkled with saffron, lazily slithering towards the river. Or rivers. We were headed to where three rivers--two visible and one imagined--meet. At the water's edge our snake split into its human parts--like a powder explosion--and entered the rivers' meeting point.

"We're actually ghosts," our guide had told us the night before, "because we perform our own last rites before we become sadhus." Our guide left his home at 18 and never went back. Today he's doubled those years without any visible regrets. It's as if he's found his people in the sadhu samaj. "For us," he explained, "the past and the future both are dead. What we occupy is a strange country where the 'nowness' never ends. And this is your time to experience it... here in this 'momentary heaven'."

The dip is a ritual, that happens every 12 years. It's smaller version happens every six and is called the Ardh Kumbh or the 'Half Urn'. The story goes that drops from the celestial urn fell at a few places during a grabfest between the gods and the demons. There are four places in India that host the Kumbh and the Ardh Kumbh in their 12 and 6-year cycles. This year the Ardh Kumbh was in Allahabad. And we were there for the big dip on January 19th, the day of the Silent Moonless Night or Mauni Amavasya.

The day when a million sins are washed away by a single dip.

a.k.a. Club 144, Lounge 144, 144, Club Nine, Club of Niners, Where Else? and the house of our remote control-freak friend Sanjoganand Shastri, in more peaceful times...

This is where we meet to dwell upon the world and its problems while tapping foot to African Experience on VH1's Internet radio and drinking a 22-year old sake straight from the bottle over glasses broken by the force of arguments alone with friends from Barcelona, Tehran, Tel Aviv and a remote village in Chad as the college kids outside dance to the music of a film called Dhoom and Bitti in the other room chants Om Namo Ringye for world peace.

I have always been fascinated with eyes. Actually the single eye! Have been drawing them since I was old enough to hold a pencil. And yet strangely I don't like to be looked at. The eye, on paper or any other material, gives a living dimension to it. It's almost as if consciousness has been breathed into a non-living thing.
This one's made in microsoft PAINT. And it's called PhospHorus because it glows and looks like a falcon about to sweep down on you...

(Pic by Sahar Z)

About 75 years ago the National Socialists in Germany set up a unique 'organisation' called the Forschungs-und Lehrgemeinschaft das Ahnenerbe (or the Ancestral Heritage Research and Teaching Society). Presided over by SS chief Heinrich Himmler, the Ahnenerbe's brief was to establish the superiority of the Aryan race through an "education offensive". It was also to seek historical and spiritual justification for the inconceivable horrors that were to follow in the name of racial superiority. On hindsight the Ahnenerbe's claims of a near-mythic 'Aryan race' may seem laughable. But the German nation under the Third Reich had suspended disbelief. All thanks to a powerful propaganda machinery that mixed facts and fantasy so immaculately and at such breakneck speeds that even the best minds were left wondering.

The Ahnenerbe insisted that Germanic Aryans, a superior race of 'blue-eyed and blond' people, were humanity's cat's whiskers. The Ahnenerbe's white supermen most resembled the dazzlingly gifted 'Thule-Hyperboreans' or as some versions put it: the god-men of the now-lost island of Atlantis. In other words these people had unlimited rights to consumption and rulership, especially in the racial wasteland that the world had become because of the 'Jewish vermin'.

These distinguished supermen--Himmler and his team of 'scholars' were trying to prove through various unorthodox means, which also included the use of calipers to measure noses--were the rightful rulers of a world civilization. The Ahnenerbe's role was not merely to serve as a research organisation but to be a precursor to a new religion of the Third Reich. A religion based on extreme exclusivism (broadly excluding not only the world's Jewry but a large part of humanity itself). The Ahnenerbe was to 'replace' traditional Christianity's deference to the Jews as the 'chosen people' with a new twist.

The Ahnenerbe was to leave no stone unturned in its effort to achieve this. And its vast charter encompassed such diversities as Tibetan Buddhism, runic divination, the Samurai code of honour, Lutheran discipline and Darwinian eugenics. The Ahnenerbe also sought to anoint Hitler as some sort of an elite world messiah, whose coming was prophesied in the scriptures of various religions. An expedition to Tibet in 1938-39 was in effect to achieve a sort of occultic approval of Hitler's regime and its grand plan of a Nazi world domination.

Now let's cut to the present. While Bush & Co have no 'stated' agenda of world domination yet. Their mechanisms are quite similar to that of the Ahnenerbe, a role into which the mainstream media in America has slipped quite effortlessly. Yes, the reality of the 1930s is much different from what we have now. But so is the manipulation of public opinion. What is passed on to the American public as incontrovertible fact is in fact 'customised truth' or truth selectively bleeped to highlight only the good and the beautiful.

This present dispensation has put FEAR in the minds of the American public. It has put America in a position of defense and hostility towards the rest of the world. This is exactly how the National Socialists made their foothold firm in the German psyche. The Ahnenerbe was also used to weed out dissent and doubters among the German intelligentsia.

George W. Bush is telling his people that the world is a very unsafe place. 'You never know where a terrorist may be lurking. Don't believe anyone who tells you that terrorists are human. Because they are not. They are just the scum of the earth. Don't ask what they're fighting against? Or why? Or who made them terrorists in the first place?'

Just smoke 'em out!

9/11 has been compared to the Reichstag Fire of 1933 and the comparison is not too far-fetched. Because it gave Bush & Co a larger-than-life enemy in whose name they could bomb any and everyone they didn't like. We are living in times very similar to the Germany of the 1930s. We are also living in very dangerous times. Because most of us don't even know who the real bad guys are.

America has begun a process of sinister Ahnenerbification. First create ghetto nations, using a fast and effective public opinion machinery. Then use your vast and unlimited powers to bomb the hell out of these ghettos.

So till yesterday if you thought Somalia was a poor country tottering on the edge of survival, today you stand corrected. It's a country of terrorists. How long before the world's Muslims have to wear star and crescent armbands!

I am with the Vatican on this one: you cannot right one crime with another.

And I am getting more and more convinced of America's fear and loathing of Great Beards or leaders with any sort of facial hair. Especially this past century, where most of America's bogeymen sported either a beard or a moustache, even if it was as meagre as Hitler's. Perhaps it has something to do with being 'clean-cut' and 'American'. Or perhaps there is some sort of a deep Oedipal Complex at work here: America distrusts any kind of patriarchy, which the beard sort of symbolizes, especially if you've grown up on The Ten Commandments and Samson and Delilah.

America is suspicious of leaders who do not have a written mandate as seen through the ballot box but who have arrived with the mandate of the heart: felt by the people but largely unwritten and therefore not quantifiable in numbers (which if the Bush re-election is any evidence is not above board either). And American notions of Democracy certainly do not extend beyond its borders as was evident in the presidential "with us or against us" call to war of 2001.

I also see the informed globe steeped in an idiotic frenzy. Especially if you see the headlines since America's latest bogeyman went to the gallows. There is talk of investigating the filming of his last moments… how anal is that! What about investigating the 'investigations' that went on in the name of the trial and the summary sentence and execution of the man. How about investigating the man who sent 3000 of his troops to die in an alien country just because he wanted to avenge an assassination attempt on his father? The numbers are certainly more than those Saddam was executed for. News reports since the execution are being adjectified with words like 'ruthless', 'most hated' and 'anti-western' when in truth all of them are nothing but propagandistic exaggerations. If Saddam was ruthless, so were Alexander (whom western historians called 'the Great'), Caesar, Elizabeth I and Catherine (also 'the Great') and more recently George W Bush who rubbished reports of civilian deaths and casualties as "collateral damage" for the great war. 'Most hated'? I don't know, perhaps an opinion poll of the Iraqi people would say more clearly. He was certainly not anti-western as he headed the only state in the Persian Gulf not run by the Sharia and which had a western-style legal system.

News channels (most of the English ones being either American or British) are tireless in showing file pictures of Saddam's statues being pulled down and people celebrating with fire from AK47s, while quietly forgetting the anger and resentment evident in daily bomb attacks by armed Iraqi militias. Why are the people attacking American troops if they are so happy with the 'liberation' that they have brought about? The intent for future mischief is also evident in America installing a Shi'ite government in a Sunni dominated country. Divide and rule has been the defining credo of 20th century colonialists and it continues with America and its Allies.

Today, after four days of reflection over the way Saddam walked to his death I see America as a country with the heart and morals of a street whore. She's cheap. She sticks by none. Loves none. And she will lie through her teeth to save her skin.



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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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