May 21, 2001

some questions are best left unanswered…

like the questions i see in most of my friends’ eyes when they wish me on my engagement. these friends have been a part of my past, as has been one special relationship.

no one understood it but the both of us. neither of us could make anyone understand what it was either, nor did we feel the need to. it has been a strange relationship. words weren’t exchanged, there were no special ‘dates’, no phone calls either. there was a silence about the entire affair that we both were comfortable in… just like that.

sometimes, somewhere along the way, like in any friendship, there was hurt, and there were tears, but again, like any true friendship, there was no anger or grudge to cling on to. some (well-meaning) friends liked to call us beauty and the beast. but we could only smile…

one of us was an aspiring joker, the other, an aspiring monk. we met on a journey we started together, which taught us a lesson in its own sweet time. we learned, understood, and we know nothing has changed. we’ll be friends forever.

because jokers and zen monks are gypsies in their own right, and they have to move on.

hmmm, so your story finally has a happy ending huh?

the joker smiled again.

every story for a joker is a happy beginning, every story for a zen monk, an interval.

May 18, 2001

“what colour are you?”

the question had surprised me when this voice (over the phone) went on even to ask what colour of clothes i was wearing. no wonder they are called ‘professional’ photographers, i thought.

two days ago, when i wanted pictures for my passport, achchan insisted i get my pictures taken at hamilton studios, “even if they are a little expensive.”

he said the studio has been operational since 1929, and that they never give you negatives. another very interesting fact my father told me, was that anybody who’s had his or her picture taken at the studio, can ask for a copy even after 50 years. and no, absolutely NO digital effects, not even computers at the place.

not even computers? since it takes very little to tickle my curiosity, i was already looking for their phone number. it was easy to get an appointment, because my father was already on their client-list. she asked me a few details about myself, and i was to reach there in about 30 minutes.

the studio did look like it had been there for years…opposite JK Raymond showroom at ballard estate, the entrance was hidden behind a few green creepers and …my favourite! bells! the interiors were huge, smelling of the chemicals or colours used for the photography process. every picture is saved manually in files, and has a unique number to it. all you had to do, was to call when you wanted a copy of your picture, and give them your number. i asked the owners why they did not want to computerise the processes and save pictures in digital formats so they’d last even longer…

but it seemed like they were really averse to the idea. in fact they had not even heard of a digital ‘format’!

so this was it. totally untouched by technology, the ambience was so different, you have to be there to believe it.

i suddenly wanted to wear something very traditional, unlike the saturday-jeans i was in. and why not, after all, i was going to pay a huge fee for this picture right?

reading my thoughts, my father just shook his head, amused. i asked the lady (ajita) if she could lend me her clothes! thankfully, ajita was very helpful and not the least surprised. (well, at least i didnt see any surprise on her face 😉

all she had was an old kurta and a duppatta to match, and the real shock came to me when i saw that it had to be of the only colour that i disliked — pink!!

anyways, i tried them over my jeans, used my pen to make a neat bindi on my forehead and i was ready for the shot.

it took a whole 35 minutes for madhavji (ajita’s father), the owner of the studio, to adjust the lights, the softlights, the background etc, before he looked into his giant-size camera and clicked.

ajita called at my office to say my picture was ready. wonder why professionalism is not so common these days. she said i look different. and sure i did 😮

but hey, i’d still say the experience is worth it.

ps: and in case you want an impromptu traditional picture taken too, try not to use indelible-ink on your forehead. getting it off could be painful.

May 16, 2001

hurrah! the time of my life :-)

10:30 am — achchan’s office at fort
12:30 pm — travel agent’s office for the passport
1:00 pm — hamilton studios (more on this later)
2:30 pm to 7:00 pm — crossword

i spent almost five hours at crossword today. because i found the doors open.

thats right. each time i used to visit crossword, be it to buy books for myself or accompanying gulnar for a cappucino, there was but one section i would halt at: religion.

i would spend my time browsing though every page of every zen or buddhism book available there, looking for interesting haikus or anecdotes, because i could never bring myself to fishing out notes of rs 500 and above for the books. most often, i would not even be carrying so much money in my wallet. and i always shrugged away from the bookstore, sighing, “enlightenment is just for the rich.”

what made me stop there for so long each time?
yes, i did believe in the principles of buddhism…i felt they’re the most practical rules anyone could ever think of. perhaps that’s why i attended vipassana, twice. ganesh had introduced me to zen with a book. i was drawn to zen perhaps because i wanted so much of that ‘blissful’ detachment it seemed to promise. (i say ‘seem’ to promise because zen never promises anything, it just asks you to ‘be’).

the greatest and the simplest truth ‘is’, and i guess thats the belief i held on to. i still do. today, is what matters to me.

hmmm, but what happens when the learning gets the better of the teaching?

i guess some of the zen lessons have seeped into me. thanks to my limited exposure to zen, i’m even detached from religion now. and hey, who’s complaining? it opened a whole new world for me.

today, at crossword’s, i walked past the ‘religion’ section, and i realised i was free to go wherever my feet took me!

travel, literature, fiction, non-fiction, games, children’s, architecture, psychology, mythology, cinema…

every section had something to offer, something to say, and i was all ears. i found the lonely planet guides and remembered seeing them in gulnar’s hands, wondering if i’d ever need them. well, now i did! i was going to the uk right 😉

one huge and expensive lonely planet (europe on a shoestring),
surviving women (for my sis who’s an ex-fan of jerry pinto, the author),
maya (jostein gaarder, my favourite. i have been looking for the solitaire mystery –offline– but it’s “out of stock” EVERYWHERE!)
bridget jones’ diary (want to try reading the novel before i watch the movie), and…
a HUGE bill later, i still din’t want to leave the store. i was extremely happy, verrry hungry, and in a mood to explore myself more. should i try having a cappucino all by myself? and maybe a gooey brownie?

i did it!

for the first time in my life, i was in a restaurant alone, celebrating my new-found sense of freedom! oh yes, i did have company… well, sort of, a very engrossing amar chitra katha copy, of chanakya.

“and what is good phaedrus,
and what is not good,
need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

— robert pirsig, zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

May 3, 2001

when grown-ups learn to become children…

when they unlearn to be honest to themselves…
when they unlearn to respect the decisions they once made…

when they unlearn that negative breeds negativity…
when they unlearn math, to multiply grudges and divide families…

when they unlearn true stories, to twist them to idle gossip…
when they unlearn that life is too short, and there is no time for hate…

when they unlearn that they have lived their lives, as must their children…
when they unlearn to ‘live’, and forget to forgive…

when they unlearn that their children will one day learn to remember…
and silently watch them grow back into children.