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The Nail Salon

Aimless, I walked; maybe to hunt for a purpose or maybe not. I wasn’t sure why I was so sad without any grief; I couldn’t tell why I felt so light with the load of emptiness. I looked in all directions. To the east, the sun appeared to be a black hole and to the west, I saw no promise of an opportunity. Ahead, there was a road, with a flood of vehicles but they appeared still. Rolling, but still.

Unless I say them out loud, these everyday thoughts have no meaning. So I continued to walk and a few yards away on the right was ‘Nora Nail Salon’. My feet drifted and I let myself be dragged in there. And then, I heard something like my voice.

“Eyebrows” It said.

After a few minutes, I saw a face like mine in the mirror, with traced lines of hair on top of my eyes. I admired my lady’s work, and heard that voice again.

“Upper lip” It said.

The clean mustache of skin over the brown sagging flesh. Some work was done and the service person will be paid, I thought. Yet again, I heard that unfamiliar voice.

“Do you think my chin needs to be waxed?” It said.

A total of 15 minutes had passed and I walked out of that room with some society-defined face of a woman. She has shaped eyebrows, shaved upper lips and a shining chin. Whoever it was, I couldn’t tell but that voice; that voice spoke again.

“Can I get a pedicure?” It said.

The feet are soaked, rubbed, massaged; the cuticles are searched for and removed; the nails are cut, filed, polished. The soul must go through some of it, I thought. “Ouch!” Somewhere during that process, I heard a voice closer to my own; maybe because of the pain.

It lasted over 20 minutes and I sat there, under my lady’s instructions. I waited for my feet to dry and just when I thought they were done, she asked me to let them dry more. I wore closed shoes and they needed drier feet, she said. I sat there and stared at my feet. The skin was clear and smooth, the heels were soft, and the nails were deep purple.

“This isn’t me.”


This time, I heard myself loud and clear. I got up and left. Of course, I paid; with sadness, the price of pretty feet and of a sadder me.


IMG_20150427_093158086 IMG_20150427_093206580

This is a section of a book called ‘Still Life with Woodpecker’ that I am reading these days.

It isn’t often that I come across a gist of how I look at the world; how, even when things go wrong, my system takes me to an alternate path where ‘wrong’ doesn’t seem wrong, it just feels like an experience that my life can build or crumble on. The paragraphs above resonate the same disregard for right, wrong, good and bad of the law of the world. Whether it makes one an ‘outlaw’ is left to an individual’s idea of self-identification; and there, I would stay away from a stereotype any day. But for the sake of clarity of character, labels like these help me reconnect with myself time and again; and provide me some essential introspection.

I feel in love with myself today.

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.


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