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One place

Where can one find

the wise and the curious,

the well-fed and the hungry;

the young and the octogenarian,

the straight and the exploratory;

the clear and the confused,

the Siberian and the Aborigine;

the conventional and the artist,

the playful and the angry;

the loved and the deprived,

the driven and the aimless;

the busy and the carefree,

the celebrity and the nameless;

the spiritual and the party-head,

the powerful and the helpless;

the utopian and the melancholy,

the royal and the homeless;

In one place, together? One might say the planet, Earth.

I see it in the City Library of San Francisco.


Art, an experience

My music teacher called me this morning. He is working on a mobile app that helps train people in Carnatic Music. Among the many features is one where users can identify a Raga by listening to the pitches/notes. The goal of the app is to build the knowledge of pitches and ragas.

I was asked if I had any thoughts or ideas that could make it better. From a random place in my memory, I mentioned that I would love it if people could identify Ragas based on their association of mood. Every Raga in Carnatic Classical Music invokes a certain kind of feeling between joy, temptation, sadness, anger, disgust etc.. However, not everybody feels the same way about the same Raga. So, while it’s hard to tie one mood to a Raga; I think for every person, their unique association remains largely the same.

So, I imagined an app which would build a profile of my understanding of music, based on how I felt about a certain sequence of notes. The app, with the knowledge of my perception of music, can replay certain sounds/pieces in a genre of moods. By recalling an experience, I might be able to identify Ragas.

This is when I realized that all my life I have been better at recalling experiences instead of events. And I think this ability of my system to capture the overall mood of an event makes me a lover of all arts. Because, what is art, if not an experience?

Zither ka Zikar

Many, many years ago, when I was a child I had a dream; (Who doesn’t?)

To collect, amass, own, possess; (So what?)

To play, to make, to do, to share; (ok, what’s your point?)

And put it all on display; (Aren’t you a show-off?)

Just for me to see, me to think, me to smile and me to get carried away.

__________Yes, that alter-ego that never had a childhood, finally gave up._____________

I wished to create a room full of instruments of music. And now, I have a violin, a piano, a keyboard, a tuning fork (ha!) and because of my new music teacher – an autoharp. Furthermore, I hadn’t expected this Zither to become my favorite play thing. It sounds wonderful and doesn’t demand much talent. I can just strum through it while I sing my songs.

Welcome you beautiful!

Children’s Zither (Autoharp)

For those who are lost because of the title, it translates to ‘About a Zither’.

Hear Heart

I’m fragile, a bit broken here and there; but that’s what I am made of – everywhere and everyone. And in times like today, when I am reminded of those buried experiences that thankfully, were ignored in the beauty of other wonderful ones; I hear those bits of me vibrate through the cracks.

The pieces tell me I am not as whole as I am supposed to be; they scream that I have taken the illusion of being complete to be true; and they remind me that there is still a lot of work to be done, a lot of love to be made.

I have to stitch them together, the cuts, the bruises and the deep wounds – the ones not inflicted by someone or something but by my own lack of perspective. Because I looked in the wrong direction and took the darkest blows of those unfortunate times.

Life, they say, is in a heart beat. I hear it in my ears today – loud and off-rhythm. And the jarring sounds and the missed beats call out to me “Hey you! There’s so much you have to do. There’s so much love you have to set free.”

Happy Human’s Day

I am not sure about how to define a woman. However, I think what makes us human beings is our ability to redefine whoever and whatever we would like to be.

I basked in the glory of that realization on March 8, 2015 when for the first time, in front of an audience, I was introduced as a Pianist.

I am inspired to practice everything that gives me joy.

The Takeoff

Sometimes, you just happen to pick a great book.

A few months ago, Google celebrated Amelia Earhart’s birthday, as usual, on their search page. I went to the aviator’s wikipedia page and one thing lead to another. By the end of an hour, I had ordered two books written by her. I finished reading ‘The Fun of It’, a few days ago. It has history, travel, aviation, engineering, business and the story of a Kansas baby. It’s a wonderful read in a lot of ways but I expected to come across a lot of ‘struggle as a girl’ references.

To my surprise and relief, it’s a fun, positive compilation of her life. The experience of this person is unusual, but even more inspiring is her wisdom and unique perception. So, wherever she wrote about her challenges as a female aviator, she looked at the other side too. This page from this book which caught my attention the most, elaborates on the same point.

IMG_20150211_155345~2Here, she talks about how being the only woman made her a star in the crew, but it also took away from the efforts of the men who contributed in making her flight successful. I have lived through this discomfort all my life, because I’ve failed to understand why my aspirations, achievements have to be assessed against my gender, community, age or any other stereotype. And history has evidence that whenever someone succumbed to such a judgement, it has hurt all genders, communities and age-groups; because it has slowed our evolution as a species.

I am most humbled to know that someone who didn’t live in our world of labels, had the ability to see past its advantages and disadvantages. She didn’t think that she was a small-town girl, she ignored that there were no other kids thinking about wings and planes, she looked at the invention of men and not how she was deprived of it; she didn’t fight for women’s rights. Amelia Earhart took off while others saw that she was a woman.

You have my word

A 2-day bike trip in Napa proved to be more stressful than adventurous. Thankfully, we were safe and almost home. But were so tired that we had to walk our bikes from the Ferry Building. Earlier that week, I had agreed to attend a big birthday gathering in one of the pubs, and it was to begin in the next hour.

This is an excerpt of a conversation that I had with my partner during that walk home.

“So, are you going to go?” He said.

“Where?” I said.

“To the party?”

“Oh, yes!”

“Aren’t you tired?”

“Yes, I am.”


“What do you mean then?”

“Are you sure you’re going to go?”

“Yes, I am.”

“What exactly are you made of?”

“Commitment.”  I said.

I think this is one of the most understandable answers I have found for my perplexing energy levels.

Inspire me

A person adorning a dress striped with his own name is more pornographic than XXXX. Oh wait, the later might provide us pleasure still.

I am an apolitical person (and proud about that) and usually refrain from engaging in anything about governance, leaders and debates around extreme beliefs. Facts are as boring as saying love is, for some reason, being red. So, when people try to talk to me about who I support etc., the answer is neither nice nor do I sleep in peace.

It’s election time in India. Let me correct myself, the results are out. I saw that AAP won the Delhi elections and Mr Arvind Kejriwal will be the Chief Minister of Delhi soon.

I will rewind to 2013 now. I watched this video about Smirti Irani dealing with media about the controversy around a party called BJP in India. This video is a question-answer (mostly answers) session about the Gujarat Riots that haunted the now Prime Minister Narendra Modi for over a decade. I consider myself a liberal, free person who believes in ‘Live and let live’ more than any tradition, religion or ritual. So, when the 2002 riots happened, I was affected. I also considered the PM(then the CM of Gujarat) responsible (or involved) in what happened in the situation. However, after watching the debate/the video I reconsidered and realized that most of the political opinion in India is dictated by the media. So, when Narendra Modi stood for national elections, I started at zero level.

At the same time, Anna Hazare happened to Delhi. I was unaffected and mostly put off by the lack of style in the entire protest. Accept me, if you can, but I am deep or superficial enough to judge politics based on style, art and beauty. In any case, I have remained neutral in my political position.

However, I have watched and sort of kept myself updated with whatever is going on (once again, it’s the media that’s feeding my thoughts and yours). So, I am aware of the various initiatives that were taken in 49 days by AAP and a ‘cleanliness drive’ under the leadership of India’s Prime Minister. I watched the news when our PM visited USA and when Mr Obama visited India.

When I think about politics, I tend to imagine various people in position as potential friends or people I randomly met in a party. Hence, all my opinions are based on whether I would like to be friends with a certain PM, President, Governor, assuming that my information about them is true.

My theory, however, fails when I try to weigh people against guilt or innocence; and it seems to work when I think about cool or not. So, when Kejriwal harmlessly challenges Kiran Bedi for a debate, I find it inspiring; and when Mr Modi wears a suit with narcissism written all over it, I feel that the person needs help. When Mr AK exhibits honesty even in his lack of governance, I want to help him with my skills; and when Mr Modi stays quiet over the massacre in Gujarat, I wonder what skills he has. It’s a quiz between someone I would like to be friends with and someone I have a hard time liking.

Based on my naive assessment, if someone pushes me for a political debate; I am happy to become a friend rather than being an advocate. So, my vote is for getting things done, staying on principle and inspiring the world without a doubt! There is only one country, one story and a life for me to live; I can’t give it to someone who has no explanation for lives lost under their watch.

The Bugged Family

“This is our country, not India.” Harsh words, nevertheless true.

Last month, I took my parents on their maiden overseas trip to Sri Lanka. Just to have done it brought me great joy. However, traveling with parents after 7-8 years needs more than a few words of explanation.

My sister and I have been brought up in an open environment. In our nuclear family, there exist four individuals who have their own wishes, dreams and goals; almost at all times. When we were growing up, my father’s yearly agenda was to see a new place. Even if it was 50 kilometers from our house, he would ensure that he took us somewhere new. This happened for 15 years, after which, we started to grow out of their parenthood. But the travel bug had multiplied by then. My life, when I look back, is controlled by that bug.

My parents’ life, however, changed. Once we were on our own paths, they only went on necessary trips, such as, for family functions. In fact, before Sri Lanka, the last time we went on a holiday together was in 2006. It was a road trip to Jim Corbett Park. Stories, experiences and jokes about the trip have been told a million times now. Last year, I thought, it was time to renew all of that.

On the 20th of Dec, we flew from Delhi to Colombo. On the flight, we got seats in different rows. So, I couldn’t guide my parents through the international flight hospitality. It turned out to be convenient. They refused alcohol and picked vegetarian meals. My sister, seated in another row, enjoyed her drink and food. And so did I.

The entire trip was organised through an agency and we had a designated driver for all 7 days. Our hotels were booked and all we had to do was sit through the distances. A comfortable Nissan Caravan came to pick us up at the airport, and made the trip rides more than just blissful, although a bit boring. Over the week, we got a glimpse of the clean city of Colombo, loved the tea estates of Nuwara Eliya, were enchanted by the beauty of Yala National Park and walked through the fort city of Galle. The greatest highlight, however, was to watch the world’s biggest creature – The Blue Whale.

The trip was planned and designed to introduce my parents to a world that’s different yet pretty close to the societies they live in. However, I was quite surprised by their level of discomfort caused by relatively minor things.

Food – It wasn’t the unavailability of vegetarian food but the abundance of meat that bothered them.

[We handled almost all these situations pretty well. Hotels we stayed in were good and although the items weren’t familiar, my parents enjoyed the customized vegetarian food in most places. In fact, all of us absolutely enjoyed the home-cooked vegetarian Sri Lankan meal at Mettha’s in Galle. And on the last day, we dined at a Chennai restaurant in Colombo. I think, eventually, their complaints were buried.]

Language – Despite 3 spoken languages (Sinhalese, Tamil and English), Tamil speakers were only found in Nuwara Eliya and Sinhalese English isn’t regular English.

[My sister and I have traveled enough. So, we broke the language barrier easily. In fact, my mother managed to discuss/argue with a jeweler about the variation in the value of currency and the cost of various things. My father, however, resorted to sign language.]

Us – I tried to help them see a glimpse of the life that my sister and I lead. I ordered a glass of wine along with food and foolishly tried to explain why it’s alright. Unfortunately, the wall between their world and ours was/is thicker than I thought.

[I learnt through my futile attempts and didn’t try anything uncomfortable again.]

Outside of these expected challenges, I learned something about ‘travel’ as an activity.

We were in Yala National Park and during the safari drive, we discussed at length about how the country seemed to have a higher civic sense. We explained, to my mother and father, how they need to control the urge to throw trash around and kept a trash bag in the jeep to throw our food waste etc.. During our 4-hour Safari, we took a break on a beach in Yala (yes, there is a beach in the middle of a wildlife park!). We spent some time by the ocean and restarted the exploration. Just as we moved out of the beach, another jeep drove in from the other side. As we crossed each other, the guide in the other vehicle called us. Our driver was perplexed and reversed the jeep.

We realized that my father had dropped a plastic bag full of trash in the middle of a National Park, and the guy in the other jeep noticed that. I looked at my father in complete shock, and at that same moment, the guide from the other jeep yelled “This is our country, not India!”

The rest of the day was spent in deep introspection about all our lives. I thought about why and how my mother is less educated yet more open to other cultures; and how it’s exactly the opposite with my father who is far more educated. This made me understand that to keep up with a ferociously changing world, we have to throw ourselves in unknown environments regularly.

My mother had to leave home at an early age and create her life in a new city. She had to learn 2 new languages, and adjust to a culture that was in contrast with her upbringing. Additionally, she had just a few pennies when she started. This, I believe, opened her mind up to other people’s ways. Hence she was able to observe, question and understand the differences between Indian and Sri Lankan civilizations. My father, however, complained about the language problem and as a tourist, I think, he expected to be understood more than to understand. Although both my mother and father didn’t want to be bothered with ‘having to adjust’, my mother’s survival instincts helped her while my father’s relatively unexposed life made him seek help.

I was disturbed for a while and recovered the day after the incident. My parents went through a few more hiccups but reportedly enjoyed the trip.

People tell me that my parents are too old to adjust with new environments; they are set in their ways and hence to expect them to reinvent their survival instincts is futile. I, despite the advice, have decided to do this more often. I need my parents to visit me but at the same time, not expect familiarity and comfort. It’s harsh but I think, it will generate curiosity. When they have grandchildren, their understanding of my world will be a bit better than what it is today.

Some of us read books, watch the news and make global friends to understand and respect other worlds. For my parents, they need to travel to believe. Because that’s what drives me too.


Talent and Bad Behaviour

Originally posted on The NITK Numbskulls Page:

Growing up, I was subjected to Carnatic music classes, like most children in my neighborhood. I grew up resenting it all.

I don’t as such hate the music part of it. I love what I’ve got from Carnatic music… the ability to keep a tune, to not be tone-deaf and to be able to understand and appreciate all genres of music. But when it came to the teachers, most if not all of them weren’t very nice people. And I noticed that the more qualified they were, the more crazy they got.

After years with this neighbor of mine, who was just a nice lady who taught music for extra income, and didn’t push us much, the time came to shop for a new teacher when this nice lady found love and happiness and moved to the other end of town. The proper music school in my neighborhood had an…

View original 1,706 more words


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