Marriage, arranged – the motive

Recently, At a friend’s wedding I found myself saddled with old pals ( all male ) all of whom were surprisingly still single. That kept me wondering : were they still waiting for that perfect partner, or had they many options all of which they wanted to keep open – without committing to one ( “commitmentOphobia” ?)

It seemed that in this group I was the veteran in this particular department , married for 8 years albeit in the old-fashioned arranged fashion which most of these friends considered an absolute farce .

I used to think in similar terms too, once upon a time.That was till I got weary of all of my “prospective” partners repeating the same thing (“I thought we were just friends “) . Not for want of a more innovative reason to thwart advances, but I earnestly I believed in the illusion that I was really good at making friends with women.

In time I realized that my hatred was misdirected at the female gender, when it should have really been targeted at Charles Darwin. After all it was his (highly proven) theory that postulated that any individual (human or otherwise) would never look towards a potential partner in a non-conformist – it flew in the face of the safety-in-numbers theory. So that was the critical factor – being a non-conformist.

Big deal ? YES.

I considered my options – maybe I could change myself to become more presentable and more social – it was just a matter of signing up for some courses and throwing some money – that easy to woo a woman, but the resultant I won’t be me. Wearing a lifelong mask sounded terrifying at best – maybe the mask grows on me so much so that I don’t recognize myself any more – depersonalization ? – yes it has happened with people.

Or like numerous others I could put up a small act as the ultimate Prince Charming during the innumerable dates interspersed over weeks or months. After all it would be just for a few hours at a time – not too difficult for an amateur actor , presenting only favorable traits & and force-congenial-izing tastes. But again that could hardly lead to a sustainable relationship – the bluff would be called once cohabitation started. For the likes of us not desiring a sustainable relationship anyways it maybe fine but not for the fastidious me.

Besides vowing to lead a single life ( which felt unbearably lonely ) or celibate life ( which amounts to self-cruelty or self-injury) I had no other options but to consider arranged marriage.

And I did.

On the plus side this meant (within certain limits) I could remain as uncouth, unshaven , un-deoderated and most importantly as non-conformist as possible, I could cling to my home-brewed ( and rather queer) beliefs ( religious, political , philosophical ) as tightly as possible. Getting accepted was not necessary now.

I still WOULD NOT recommend arranged marriage ; the “love” variant, done properly, where the feelings from the heart are substantiated by those in the brain is always the more natural approach while being more adventurous as well. Love marriages also are more helpful in transcending the artificial barriers that we have erected ( religion, region , race , caste) – the products of such marriages are less likely to be bigoted.

But if you’re a non-conformist like me, and unless you find a partner who is also non-conformist in exactly the same way, arranged marriage is still an option on the table.

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Acquired Identity

A few days ago I saw a truck registered in the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), the very first one I’d seen in Bangalore. It pushed me down my memory lane, the length of which had given me my identity. I’d always grappled with an answer to the question as innocuous as “where are you from ?” – the ubiquitous attempt by the inquirer to categorize myself – to pack me into a silo.
Mostly I’d reply “my parents are from Kerala” – to which the sarcasm-laden retort would be “and what about you, were you splintered from a cloud-burst ?” – meaning I SHOULD belong to where my parents do.
The trouble is, my life is a jigsaw of different places and cultures – most of them far removed from the mainstream (for geo-political reasons) – and I’ve never known which part of the jigsaw is the answer to “where are you from ?” puzzle.
Do I belong to Shillong (Meghalaya) where I was born, though a very beautiful place, I’ve never felt I belonged there. Not the least  because I’d never lived there much but also because we were treated with hostility, for being kids of what was perceived as an alien army. But perhaps I did acquire my altitude-sickness proof lungs there and my life-long romance with hills, particularly the Himalayas (though Meghalaya doesn’t touch Himalayas).
For a while I thought I was from J&K, since that were I did the whole of my schooling, and I thought schools manufactured you. And this is where I lived the longest. Though I always took the inevitable racist taunts in the lightest of kid-hood banter, fitting in was an altogether different story – I did to some extent. I was arguably the “blackest” kid in the school of 2000 plus, the contrast was more so since one of my friends was the fairest Indian (pure-bred, meaning with both Indian parents)  I’d known (ever and since – the back of his palm was 10 times fairer than the front of mine). The association of black with dirt and the consequent inference that these demon-worshipper South Indians (“Madrasis”) were black for want of a regular bath – this was a popular basis of most jokes. That quite a few of them believed this myth amused me.
Some Punjab, some Gujarat sprinkled over.
And then the icing from the cosmopolitan Mumbai ( or Bombay) – college time.
And now, Bangalore – the crust concealing everything else – earning the living.
The knowledge of the language Malayalam (the native language of my parents) always seemed beneficial everywhere – in getting cheap accommodation ( more of this another day) when jobless and heartless in Mumbai, in getting an instant invitation for Easter lunch by a stranger couple I’d just met in an super-market in Cambridge, England.
Yet if I answer “Kerala or Malayalee” to the identity question – the next question would be “you speak Hindi which is excellent for a South Indian, how come ?” and I have to explain my complicated history that I was trying so hard to conceal.
Maybe I could just say “its complicated”  but that would mean being too haughty by questioning the inquirer cognisance.
My only moment of home-coming has been when my plane was circling over a be-deluged Mumbai (Bombay), waiting for space to land while returning from England. My only trip abroad had lasted only 3.5 months and yet it had seemed like an eternity. Though over-zealous to travel to the West once, now inexplicably, I found myself magnetically attracted back to India, this India which though civilized 4000 years ago in Harappa, still had never learnt to wait their turn at a petrol bunk, or at a traffic signal or in any other queue for that matter.
That was true home-coming.
So that is the identity I’ve acquired all this while – Indian.
Black and Indian, without belonging to any specific part of India.

Original Love, Retroverted

Of late, I seem to be warming up to an old flame – mathematics. In a moment borne of an impulse to do something new, I’d blurted out to a friend, albeit wistfully that perhaps I should have studied pure mathematics – mathematics devoid of any applications to the “real” world – somehow I felt the detached nature of obscure theorems (punctuated by queer Greek alphabets) wildly alluring. A week or so later when I’d all but forgotten about that impulse (that’s the sad way most of them succumb – death by laziness) – my friend pointed me to YouTube videos about maths lectures. Now, I had to resuscitate, and fast.
And today a week later – I’m decided to take up the “Theory of numbers” (yes that is a whole discipline) as a pure hobby; I Googled for and today made a pilgrimage to the Tata Book House to get hold of the book that looked most useful to me to start up. Even if I’m able to UNDERSTAND the unsolved Riemann’s hypothesis, I’d deem this endeavour as worthwhile.
It’s an exciting feeling, like being drawn back to a school-time crush after entering mid-age. Maths classes always used to be fun – perhaps it was because the young Kashmiri woman who taught us Maths in high school – she was the first rational person I ever knew. She made no bones of discussing the pros and cons of natural vs C-section delivery in front of a class of 12 year olds – and that too in a maths class – so undogmatic – so unpedantic. So much so that I came to love the subject, since, it started looking like it was never forced on us (so unlike most other subjects). And numbers, seem to look so full of such vibrant persona – and distinctive too – approaching infinity.
After Std X, the interest ebbed a little – an old-school dogmatist had returned to reign – and whatever life was left was sucked always by the humbug called “competitive” exams after XII. Enter “engineering” years and maths was denigrated to its (maybe) more pragmatic but immensely uninteresting cousin with an “applied” tag prefixed to differentiate it from the original.
Today, 14 years after I lost contact with pure mathematics I realise what I’ve missed in the mad race of building a “career”. I donot want to do a formal research as for once I’m not eligible and now its not practical either (with all of my financial liabilities) and anyway I want to do my own things at my own pace without being rushed – without having to worry about completing credits – presenting papers – incentives – recommendations from professors – the dirty politics of claiming credit for something found.
I write about it lest I forget.If I fail to proceed from cipher (as is most probable) this blog will serve as the requiem.

The Art of Procrastination – Bangalore Edition

This is a sequel to my procrastinating escapades – the first edition is here.

And it’s not just with Mumbai.Even in Bangalore – years later,by when I should have matured – I kept up my game plan.

I decided to save time and take my motor-bike to station to beat the heavy traffic that impedes the buses in the heart of the city.Unluckily some sport event was happening at the indoor stadium and the vehicles were parked all over the place – and I couldn’t do much but to wait.

While my train didn’t. Atleast if I did not have my own vehicle, I could have hopped off to cross the blockade by foot and hailed a richkshaw – but that was not to be. And then once in Bangalore City railway station, after composing from shock of the missed train, I find that there was no separate queue to cancel unused tickets and the general queues were Ridiculously Long. I once again tried to outsmart the system by chatting up some girls standing in the women’s queue (which because of our country’s skewed sex ratio) was considerably shorter and persuading them to cancel my tickers. After a patient wait for half an hour – the counter clerk flung my ticket out immediately, having been tricked like this countless time before in a day.I returned to square one of a Ridiculously Long Queue – not having thought of waiting there for the half an hour now gone – which could have served as a plan B – delusions of invincibility ? Maybe.

And for people who expect me to pick them up from the railway station – they can plan to have an elaborate morning tea and snacks on the platform before I finally arrive.

And for people who expect me to drop them at the station – well nobody actually expects – so I’m saved there.

And trains are not the only means of transport I’m an expert at missing. Inter-city buses too.

Especially when I was to board at a pass-through bus-stop rather than at the bus station (I’d thought this would save me an hour-long commute in the evening peak hour). Anyway I reached the boarding point – confident that the bus had not left – the traffic was so bad – and anyways I’d come on the same route the bus would have followed to exit the city – and I hadn’t seen the bus go.That I was not on time but 10 min or so late – didn’t ring me a bell – 10 min late is not late in India – I told myself, not reassuringly but confidently. I debunked Murphy’s law which stated that whenever I would be even 5 mins late the bus/train would always leave on time (the converse is also true). So I waited confidently for an hour or so before growing skeptical – there WAS a KSRTC booking counter nearby – which had a record of what bus had passed – I en-quired and was told that they did wait for me for a couple of minutes (phew, at other times I’ve seen this same bus company wait for passengers endlessly). I lost the full ticket money (due to a stupid rule) and had to purchase a new ticket for another bus.

This happened no more than some months ago – when I had already donned the hat of a responsible husband and a responsible father

I guess my son would never reach school in time – even if there was an exam.

The Art of Procrastination – Mumbai Edition

I was born at 5 minutes past 3. Apparently, that was when it was decided that I would never be able to do anything on time at all in this life.

It’s true that almost everyone suffers from some minor form of this disorder but for me it has reached hilariously lofty proportions. I can procrastinate for hours and months and years together. I have some home fixtures I’ve bought more than a year and a half back which I’ve not been able to fix yet – I have everything in place – everything tangible atleast – drilling machine , nails, screws etc. and I plan to get it done every weekend – for the past 32 months or so.

Everyday I plan to get to office on time – and everyday I’m late – late not by minutes but hours. My boss has given up expecting me before lunch. I play safe and start working only after checking mail – just to play safe by ensuring that I’m still employed.

If getting up early morning is difficult then catching a train or bus (plane ? no – I hardly ever fly) is worse.

I’ve missed trains atleast half a dozen times and countless times have been saved only by a whisker – providing some good business to station cabbies.

One of those cases was absolutely ludicrous – once while trying to catch a train to Varanasi (the holiest place for Hindus) for an important interview – I saw the train slide out of the platform the moment I arrived at the Kurla Terminus station (now Lokmanya Tilak terminus), Mumbai.When I confirmed with the cabbies there that was indeed my train – one enterprising chap promised me into the train at Kalyan station – which was its next stop – some 40 km or so away. It would cost me 500 rs. My naiveté triumphed.

So we sped along the sparsely trafficked Eastern Express Highway – did not stop for being flagged down by the traffic cop and reached Kalyan only to be told that the train had just departed. Losing 500 rs added to the double whammy – that was more than the ticket price of my round trip to Varanasi – atleast the cabbie had the human heart to drop me back at the Kurla Terminus.

Kurla Terminus has been especially unlucky for me – I had debuted there some years before, assuming that the terminus must be an extension of the Kurla sub-urban station (like Bandra or Dadar terminus). Like usual I was in Kurla right at the departure time of the train – except that I could find no extension – and so no terminus – inquiries revealed that it was a separate station in its own right and had to be reached in a rickshaw – I frantically hired one. My conspicuous hysteria worked its magic on the (yet another enterprising) auto-richshaw driver called John.

He charged me a flat 50 rs – which I was more than willing to pay.Though his languid manner highly contrasted my sense of urgency, he promised me that I won’t miss my train. As soon as we reached Kurla Terminus he told me to cool off as my train was starting 4 hrs or so late (and he knew about it all the time). My anxiety had ballooned his fare from rs 8 to rs 40 (which is what I finally agreed to pay) for plying a distance of no more than half a km.

Nothing won’t be more tragic than to see the sub-urban train you’re travelling in held at a signal to let a long-distance train pass – when that was the train you were intending to catch. You could try jumping from this train to the moving train – and say (at heaven-hell gates maybe) that you sacrificed your life trying to catch your train.

I was born at 5 minutes past 3. Apparently, that was when it was deicided that I would never be able to do anything on time at all in this life.
Its true that almost everyone suffers from some minor form of this disorder but with me it has reached hilariously lofty proportions. I can procastinate for hours and months and years together. I have some home fixtures I’ve bought more than a year and a half back which I’ve not been able to fix yet – I have everything in place – everything tangible atleast – drilling machine , nails, screws etc. and I plan to get it done every weekend – for the past 32 months or so.
Everyday I plan to get to office in time – and everyday I’m late – late not by minutes but hours. My boss has given up expecting me before lunch. I play safe and start working only after checking mail – just to play safe by ensuring that I’m still employed.
If getting up early morning is difficult then catching a train or bus (plane ? no – I hardly ever fly) is worse.
I’ve missed trains atleast half a dozen times and countless times have been saved only by a whisker – providing some good business to station cabbies.
One of which was absoultely ludicurous – once while trying to catch a train to Varanasi (the holiest place for Hindus) for an important interview – I saw the train slide out of the platform the moment I arrived at the Kurla Terminus station (now Lokmanya Tilak terminus), Mumbai.When I confirmed with the cabbies there that was indeed my train – one enterprising chap promised me into the train at Kalyan station – which was its next stop – some 40 km or so away. It would cost me 500 rs. My naivete triumphed.
Anyways, we sped along the almost empty Eastern Express Highway – didnot stop for being flagged down by the traffic cop and reached Kalyan only to be told that the train had just departed. Losing 500 rs added to the double whammy – that was more than the ticket price of my round trip to Varanasi – atleast the cabbie had the human heart to drop me back at the Kurla Terminus.
Kurla Terminus has been especially unlucky for me – I had debuted there some years before, assuming that the terminus must be an extenstion of the Kurla sub-urban station (like Bandra or Dadar terminus). Like unsual I was in Kurla right at the departure time of the train – except that I could find no extension – and so no terminus – enquires revealed that it was a separate station in its own right and had to be reached in a rickshaw – I frantically hired one. My conspicous hysteria worked its magic on the (another enterprising) autorichshaw driver called John.
He charged me a flat 50 rs – which I was more than willing to pay.Though his languid manner never seemed to match my sense of urgency, he promised me that I won’t miss my train. As soon as we reached Kurla Terminus he told me to cool off as my train was starting 4 hrs or so late (he knew about it all the time). My demeanor had transformed his fare from rs 8 to rs 40 (which is what I finally agreed to pay) for plying a distance of no more than half a km.
Nothing won’t be more tragic than to see your sub-urban train stopped at a signal to let a long-distance train pass – when that was the train you were intending to catch. You could try jumping from this train to the moving train – and say (at heaven-hell gates maybe) that you sacrificed your life trying to catch your train. 

Speed

I donot remember the events that led to my initiation into the biking world but I do remember the night when a friend in a moment marked with extreme generosity – allowed me to try out his run down and rather old Suzuki – and I (utterly ignorant of the art of motrobiking then) revved so hard on a desolate but perferctly made road , that he started running after me, forseeing the the end of his bike and his friend – I survived.
And decided (against the instict that told me I would never ride/drive safely) that I’d love to have that experience every day even if that would mean , well death or worse – a physical handicap.
And now after a dozen accidents , a score near misses all sustained in one year of driving my beloved Honda – the pain that I have in my knee right now – and which makes me make sloemn promises to ride safely to all deared – evaporates the instant I hit a vast expanse of good road. Two days after my worst accident ever – I was still still cruising past 90 with a knee that refused to bend making shifting the gear a painful process – and all this not for sheer dare-devilry – but the passion , the thrill of (over)speeding; I had the realization that the only death can deaddict you off speed.
I got the first taste of the drug when I was 12 and Dad allowed me to ride a Go-cart in a leisure park in Gujarat – I hit everyone I possibly could – overtaking them as they mouthed obscenities – and then on a curve I did a head-on with the ‘tyre’- barricades – face on steering – chipped one tooth (which exists to date) – and tore up the joint between the lower jaw and the lower underlip.But what I remember most was I did not let the accelerator off for a moment – even when I’d hit the fence I slammed the brakes but never released the accelerator – that was the first and last time I rode a non-twowheeler.
My next vehicle-of-affection was the innocuous looking bicycle – an uncle taught me riding  when I was at an age when my classmates used to drive in cars. Ran amok with it – including when once I fell and a cycle-rickshawallah in the city of Jalandhar went over it – twisting the rim out of shape.Then once I collided with a friend’s car head on and under the impact the front wheel jammed into the mudgard – so much so that I had to tow it with the front wheel lifted to the nearby repairman.
Then my friend baptized me into the world of motorbiking – he told me(in essence) that there the horses and the bulls – the former meant for speed and only speed while latter meant for ruggedness. I took no time in deciding that I wanted a horse but since a genuine horse was beyond my means – I took up a mule which has been reared (theoretically) in the same (Japanese) stables as the best stallions in the world – the Honda.
The bull(et) makes for magnificence of riding , of riding chest up – of riding graciously – of the trademark sound of its ‘hooves’ – of riding rough terrain. All that made no sense to me – all I cared for was speed , speed and more speed – even if the riding position invented for minimum wind drag gave me a back pain (after all you have but one youth).
I did not consider the ‘oxen’ at all -as the dictionary defines it – the Bulls with the balls removed – and cheap to buy – the Avengers and the Eliminators and the Enticers (sorry mate if you own one).
So I bought this mule and I knew no way of riding it ( a friend rode it home from the shop).I started off with some bad crashes into and out of the office parking ramp – both me and my mule still bear those first scars. I realised that it was 90 % fear and only 10 % inexperience. Then I undertook a confidence building drive by riding my mule continuously for some 8 hours and not hitting even once and gave myslelf the modest achievement that ‘I can ride well’. 
Unlike what you would like to believe, the seriousness of my accidents increased the better I learnt riding – I took more and more risks and more and more times my luck ran out.
There are men who are trigger happy – and there are those who are throttle-happy – even amongst the trigger-happy there are those win accloades from the government and the ones who become victims of the others of their kind .
Ditto throttle-happy men.
A friend gave me an advice in good faith to give up biking and take on a 4-wheeler instead – ofcourse he knows better than that I’d listen.
No I have no death wish – I do WANT to ride safely – but its just like a cocaine-addict WANTING to quit.

I just envy the ‘both’ types – the one could ride with such abandon that they revel in speed and then they are safe too.Needless to say I would never get there.
I forsee therefore that there is a good possibilty that death would overtake me while I’m overspeeding –  doing what I like doing most (esp since everything else I do is so mundane – so mediocre).

Speed is like love – it sure thrills but can kill.

The Matrix

I had a heated exchange with a long-time friend about the truth of the world. Incidentaly this person has not lived in India for more than seven years of his twenty-seven ; and so its not surpising that he be a patron of Indian culture – but he goes further – he’s a staunch RSS supporter and preaches Sanatan Dharma as the core ingredient of the condiment we call Indian culture. And that of a person working on cutting edge technology in the Silicon Valley,sounded quite novel.
The exchange followed due to the misconception that I was one of the Westernised, cynical Indians- raring to move West – the conclusion he jumped into when I divulged my atheist nature and my support for the (West-originated) philosophies of subjectivity (Ayn Rand) and existentialism.
I had to final shout that I was not Westernised, neither Indianised nor Orientalised.( I had to tell him that Sanskrit was my favorite language). I told him that I eclecticly picked whatever was the best of all religions,cultures,races. I told him that I was out of the Matrix – while most people in the world still were not.
I was aware of the truth of my statements only later – Wachowski’s movie gives voice to the malaise which has run amok in humankind and all violence we see around us is directly or indirectly attributable to the existence of the Matrix – or rather the Matrices.
Let me explain – there is hardly a thing called an unbiased opinion or account of anything – my friend accused me of reading history that was written by the West and so biased heavily against Hindutva.I asked him what history to read – Ramayana – Upnishads – they say they are the centre of the world – they and nobody else – its biased against West, or East or north or south – they donot take into account even the ‘existence’ of other races, cultures in ‘Satyuga’ – they finally claim that all that is diverse now has descended from Hindutva.My friend disputed the Aryan invasion theory – I guess what he had in mind was cross-Aryan invasion – the influx of Sanskrit speakers into West.
The point is ‘who do you believe’. I was an extremely gullible person once – believed everything that was told to me – so many people started telling me so many things – totally contradicting each other – that I had no peace of mind – till I decided not to trust anyone – you tell me what you think and I’ll see whether I want to accept it or not- the Self is my Supreme Court – so I decided I won’t be part of any Group that strives to become a Matrix. They want you to believe in what they want and not what you want.Your right and wrong is decided by the Matrix rather than by you yourself.Of course there can be well-intended Matrices as well – the Mission of Charity by Mother Teresa is one example – the Matrix of Compassion.
But most are ill-founded and ill-intended – but the ‘Nodes’ of the Matrix never see that truth – they transform into Agent Smith-s- the Jihad Matrix, the Hndutva MAtrix, the Nazi (and neo-Nazi) Matrix, the Marxist Matrix (which is the most unabashed one – they kill the self completely – the Jihad Matrix does so only physically), the ‘Jesus-loves-you’ Matrix.
Every morning you wake up and you run into Agents – everything said by everyone is intended at making you believe what they believe.
I wake up and see my landlady – she says that I live in the best , the most comfortable house on the Planet,I switch on TV – an ad  tells me that their product is number one (many competitors do that as well for the SAME PRODUCT),I goto to one news channel – they say that a ‘professor has been beaten to death’ I go to another and they say ‘a professor dies of stress and heart-attack’ both channel claim to broadcast only truth – the list is just enless- every moment of the day someone is metamorphising into Agent Smith for his Matrix.
I have a long standing joke wth my former room-mates – everytime we used to go house-hunting – and we would ask someone on street whether there was a house to be let – he immediately transforms into an Agent Smith – just like in the movie – he leaves his original occupation (vending vegetables , tailoring are all true examples) – all transform into a realtor – and would be desirous of Something when the deal is done.
Ofcourse ,all I am talking of could be bull-shit to you – I am no Agent Smith. Please let me know what you think by putting comments.