I was a little over the niceties. With the formalities and social behaviours. With the how-do-you-do's and what's-for-lunch conversations. With the strain of putting up a freshness when you are drained of all freshness.
It isn't such a wrong thing, trust me. (That is, if you are concerned about the right-ness or wrong-ness of it all.)
So I stole away after buying some lunch. There is this little enclosed garden space that sits next to the roaring motorway. Enclosed by greening trees. With a decrepit wooden table and a plank that serves as chair. It is sparklingly green. And the flowers of many kinds litter the ground, almost uncontrollably.
Fiddler's Green. If such a place existed for travel worn sailors, here was my Fiddler's Green.
I lied on the deep green grass. Slightly moist. And it was the most beautiful view from where my head rested. The glorious blue sky. The light fresh boughs of tree nodding sleepily. Sparrows tottering up and down them.
"It's the most beautiful view," I told myself.
And there is something about daisies that I love. They give me life lessons everytime I see one.
How they exist almost effortlessly. Almost living without obligation. Without any strings attached. Just a flower that comes out and dies away when it has reached its time.
With every threat to me, I feel proud that I am a bone in the enemy’s throat. When the enemy chases me, threatens me and tries to assassinate me, it makes me feel that I am walking, thanks be to God, on the right path. Khaled Meshal, Damascus-based leader of Hamas
Hipsterdom is the first "counterculture" to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion.
Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion.
We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.
(From article Hipsters: The Dead End of Western Civilization that covered in ADBUSTERS written by Douglas Haddow)
Wow. Those are big words. Especially from a magazine like Adbusters that normally are read by hipsters themselves (though they admit in being one or not!) and especially from a magazine like Adbusters that are claimed to be run by hipsters (who don't admit it though, but who fall into the categories that they have listed clearly).
Of course I am not a hipster myself. Haha
But in the defence of these 'counter-culture' that is hardly a counter-culture (as the article in Adbusters say), it is the by product of a frustrated generation who have been brought up in the context of globalization. What do you get when one whole generation is brought up experiencing similar lifestyles, engaging in similar popular culture icons, listening to similar music, and having almost similar food habits (as globalization made possible)?
There is a saying that goes: in the future all humans will be beige. There will be no black. There will be no whites. There will be no brown. And that's where the world is headed. If you try and stop it, and discourage inter-marriage, you are a savage and hater of humanity.
And I am saying is: in the future (if it's not yet happened now) all young people will be hipsters - or whatever the term that sociologists are using to define this 'nemesis' of subcultures. I don't think much can be done to avoid it. All subcultures will merge into this thing. Ideas will be shared and agreed upon. And a punk kid will also be a B-boy kid who will also be a nerd who will also be a House music fanatic who will also be a religious Bible believing (or devout Hindu) kid who will also be proud lover of coffee.
There will be no stopping this annoyance which will also be a blessing which will also be a phenomena which will also be a sociological subject which will also be a mockery which will also be a culmination of all good things from cultures past which will also be half hearted which will also be adored.
We lock ourselves in. We think it is smart. We think inside this darkened chapel away from the city lights, away from the beckoning neon glows, we are safe from the lusts. We think no one dares barge in to steal what we have here. The little that we have here.
We check the locks now and then. And are saddened to see that the locks are sometimes jarred. As though someone had tried to escape. Lured by the red and blue and orange glow that permeates the thick holy curtains.
We tell these 'someones', these deluded people off. Tell them that evil lurks outside - at our doorstep, waiting to pounce on the first person to take the step out. That we don't belong there. That we have our own thing happening. Our own thing more tamed and cultured. We will have nothing to do with the distasteful ways that are the norms outside our locked doors.
It is an adventure. Sometimes it takes someone else to tell you and help you appreciate the things you have been through and just how epic things have been, and just how epic your journey has been.
That's why sometimes people stop at a roadside tea stall somewhere on the highway and talk to a stranger. And let the stranger marvel at how far you have come. Tell her stories of people you have met and places you have been to.
And when you hear the marvel and the ooh and aah of that stranger, you start to feel the travel sickness and the blues creep away slowly. And you gain fresh confidence.
And you bid goodbye to that stranger, and wish her godspeed.
When God gives, he gives more than you can handle so that you don't get cocky.
When God takes away it is because he doesn't want you depending on what you had received from him.
I had to go in a few minutes. The person who would drop me back to city was already starting up her car. And I rushed back into my room to gather my things.
Everything was in a mess. I grabbed my clothes and stuffed them into my bag. I grabbed my guitar. And chained it inside the case.
And then I saw, there was another guitar. An electric guitar. A pastel green electric guitar, the types that I remember having wanted.
And then I saw another guitar.
Now how was I going to get three guitars and my bag on me to go home?
And the woman was starting her car. She probably had left already. And should I have to catch the bus then? With three guitars?
I know I came here with one guitar. Now I had three.
Blessing. And the responsibility that comes with it.
One of my favourite films, History Boys. Found a few quotations from there:
Hector: The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours. ----- Headmaster:There's a vacancy in history. Tom Irwin: [Thoughtfully] That's very true. Headmaster: In the school. Tom Irwin: Ah. ----- Mrs. Lintott: History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket. ----- Dakin: The more you read, though, the more you'll see that literature is actually about losers. Scripps: No. Dakin:It's consolation. All literature is consolation. ----- Wilkes: One day it will save your life. Posner: Nothing saves anyone's life sir. It just postpones their death.
[Wilkes puts his hands on Posner's shoulders] Wilkes: Jesus Christ will save your life, lad, if you only let him into your heart! Posner: I'm Jewish, sir.
[Wilkes moves instead to put his hands on Akhtar's shoulders] Akthar: I'm Muslim, sir. ----- Tom Irwin: The truth was, in 1914, Germany doesn't want war. Yeah, there's an arms race, but it's Britain who's leading it. So, why does no one admit this?
[approaching a war memorial] Tom Irwin: That's why. The dead. The body count. We don't like to admit the war was even partly our fault cos so many of our people died. And all the mourning's veiled the truth. It's not "lest we forget", it's "lest we remember". That's what all this is about - the memorials, the Cenotaph, the two minutes' silence. Because there is no better way if forgetting something than by commemorating it. ----- Hector: [hector during his general studies class with the boys] i'll let you in on a little secret boys. there is no such thing as general studies. general studies is a waste of time. knowledge is not general. it is specific. ----- Mrs. Bibby: Our lord and master, having grudgingly conceded that art may have its uses, I gather, I'm supossed, to give your Oxford and Cambridge boys a smattering of art history. Hector: Not my bag, Hazel. Irwin's your man. Tom Irwin: It's really just the icing on the cake. Mrs. Bibby: Is art ever anything else?
We've been through this a million times. I can't believe we are doing it again. What do we say? We have run out of excuses and replies. I have run out of smart lines and things to say to appease you. And now we have started again. What do I say? What do I even think about? I have exhausted thoughts and words, I have spent all I could in the past, and I thought we had already solved it.
So let's make this easy for us. Let's just say things will be alright. Everything's going to be just right...
We might have said this before too. It is not a new line we are telling ourselves. But even so, let us hear ourselves out. Everything will be just alright.
And lets keep it at that.
Let us subdue the remorse that creeps up our spine. Let us subdue the fear that stalks us everyday. Let us not give a damn about reality that looms on our path. They have been at it a million times. We have been at it a million times.
We still don't know what tomorrow will bring. Yesterday still shames us. But for now.. For now, we have each other. Let's lean on each other as we watch the sun rise from behind the purple peaks. Hear the surging wind sing across the forest.
We have each other.
But I didn't tell you all these. I should have.
We just sat in silence. Until the glory of the morning vanished as easily as it had appeared.
Last weekend was beautiful. It began when I got a text from Dominic in the middle of my Staff Training on Integrity- you know as an attribute and characteristic of a person in the work place and in Parachute Music. So I was disturbed by the buzz of my phone in my pocket and I decided I wanted to see the text immediately just in case it was something important.
I probably shouldn't have, because after reading that text I couldn't concentrate on the training anymore. The text was Dominic asking me if I was ready for the weekend trip! The weekend trip! The Oamaru trip!
I had totally forgotten about it! I had been making plans to do nothing over the weekend and just relax at home... And then this text reminded me: I had to catch the flight that Friday night straight after work and fly to Christchurch to drive to Oamaru.
After a messy series of texts and planning and laughs with Chris and Danny (when I told them I was supposed to be in South Island that very evening) I was on my way to the airport, but not before I grabbed my passport and a few clothes for the weekend.
Dominic and Calvin (and his sister) got me from the airport. Immediately we were well on our way to Oamaru. The drive there was eventless. I can't remember anything about it, except eating some Fried Rice at the back from the plastic boxes.
Oamaru was a very pretty and quaint town with a lot of character. Though I didn't see much of it next day, because we drove straight to the Narnia film site (which was the main reason we were there), the little that I did told me that Oamaru is a town that is not trying to be something else. It has a lot of charm and old buildings and is very much treated like a Victorian English town.
The wine farms (wineries?) of Otago struck me speechless. They were green and lavish in their summer-liness. The countryside and farming lands. And the further from the town we went the closer we got to the mountains which began only hazed and grey in the far horizon.
Narnia film site was stunning. Not because it was a film site. In fact people who weren't hard core fans of Narnia like Dominic is, wouldn't even realise that it is a film site. It is just a private farm, with bits of land cordoned off by electric fence, watched by farmers on the four wheel drives and cows and a few horses.
I had a lot of time to explore the place on my own (which I always love doing, if you're asking). I got buzzed by the electric fence two times. Thank goodness the volts weren't high. Else, I kept wondering what it would be like to be found dead somewhere under a bush of trees or in a corner of a countryside, had the electric fences been fatal. But don't you worry: those fences were just to scare cows and livestock from crossing fences. Just enough to give one a rough (and rude) jolt.
I remember the spot we had lunch at. Under the shade of the trees. A herd of cows came and watched us for a bit, looking very curious. I took a nap in the shade. And as the day progressed the sun started to creep up my feet and then my jeans, til I had to move away.
Oamaru as a town is, as I said, very quaint. The markets that open in weekends I think, are full of interesting things. There was a Steampunk exhibition happening in town and there were interesting art pieces of futuristic old robots and cars and trains at the town centre. We saw some people dressed up in futuristic but old fashion too, doing some filming and photography.
Of course Dominic had to do it too. We got dressed up in Victorian clothing and took a couple of photos (officially done by a photo store called Photo Shoppe).
I'd like to go back there one day and explore the many stores and even the farms and houses in the countryside. Maybe, meet interesting people around there.
This actually did happen to a real person, and the real person was me. I had gone to catch a train. This was April 1976, in Cambridge, U.K. I was a bit early for the train. I'd gotten the time of the train wrong.
I went to get myself a newspaper to do the crossword, and a cup of coffee and a packet of cookies. I went and sat at a table.
I want you to picture the scene. It's very important that you get this very clear in your mind.
Here's the table, newspaper, cup of coffee, packet of cookies. There's a guy sitting opposite me, perfectly ordinary-looking guy wearing a business suit, carrying a briefcase.
It didn't look like he was going to do anything weird. What he did was this: he suddenly leaned across, picked up the packet of cookies, tore it open, took one out, and ate it.
Now this, I have to say, is the sort of thing the British are very bad at dealing with. There's nothing in our background, upbringing, or education that teaches you how to deal with someone who in broad daylight has just stolen your cookies.
You know what would happen if this had been South Central Los Angeles. There would have very quickly been gunfire, helicopters coming in, CNN, you know. . . But in the end, I did what any red-blooded Englishman would do: I ignored it. And I stared at the newspaper, took a sip of coffee, tried to do a clue in the newspaper, couldn't do anything, and thought, what am I going to do?
In the end I thought, nothing for it, I'll just have to go for it, and I tried very hard not to notice the fact that the packet was already mysteriously opened. I took out a cookie for myself. I thought, that settled him. But it hadn't because a moment or two later he did it again. He took another cookie.
Having not mentioned it the first time, it was somehow even harder to raise the subject the second time around. "Excuse me, I couldn't help but notice . . ." I mean, it doesn't really work.
We went through the whole packet like this. When I say the whole packet, I mean there were only about eight cookies, but it felt like a lifetime. He took one, I took one, he took one, I took one. Finally, when we got to the end, he stood up and walked away.
Well, we exchanged meaningful looks, then he walked away, and I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back. A moment or two later the train was coming in, so I tossed back the rest of my coffee, stood up, picked up the newspaper, and underneath the newspaper were my cookies.
The thing I like particularly about this story is the sensation that somewhere in England there has been wandering around for the last quarter-century a perfectly ordinary guy who's had the same exact story, only he doesn't have the punch line.
(Excerpted from "The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time" by Douglas Adams)
Here's a link to an argument that Isaac Asimov, one of the best authors of Science Fiction works, put up to a mail he received from an English Literature student who said Asimov ought to be wise and admit he doesn't know much; because Socrates said only the wisest know that they knows nothing.
He argues about the idea of the 'wrong' and against the claim that every century scientists have made discoveries and had thought of them to be right, only to be proven 'wrong' by newer discoveries.
* We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't allow them to write "fuck" on their airplanes because it's obscene!
* Roxanne: Do you know why you can never step into the same river twice? Willard: Yeah, 'cause it's always moving.
* Have you ever considered any real freedoms? Freedoms from the opinion of others... even the opinions of yourself?
* Well, you see, Willard, in this war, things get confused out there. Power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to be God. Because there's a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irration, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.
Quotes from Apocalypse Now Redux that I watched last weekend. Film review coming soon.
Was it a dream? It felt real. It felt very real. I can even still feel the excited creeped me then. I can still hear my heart thumping as it did when I dreamt. I sit now at my desk and listen to people make plans.
Never have I gained anything by planning. The only thing that planning has ever done for me is make me want to do all the more what I have only been planning.
I have heard it said: Life is what happens when you are busy planning.
In my dream (or what I think now was just a dream), I was going at last. I was going to places I have only ever dreamt of. Places that I had planned to go to, and had been planning to go to for a long long time. And my plans were finally getting played out.
Those whom I loved were there. They were all coming. I was going with them to see the bazaars. The lovely houses that cradled the ledge of the mountain, and from whose open window we would drink tea and stare out at the vast layers of snowy mountains, still a safe distance away to not dampen the sunny skies. The shadowy trees that shelter birds and men and ladies when the clouds open up. The daisies that border the highway that smells like burnt rubber and baked earth in the sun. The shuffling clouds rubbing their wetness against the deep green hills.
I was going. And I had done away with the planning.
I ask for a moment's indulgence to sit by thy side. The works
that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.
Away from the sight of the face my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.
Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and
the bees are playing their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove.
Now it is time to sit quiet, face to face with thee, and to sing
dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.
Dalhousie, the hill station in the Himachal Himalayan foothills, apart from it having the most lovely name has a very interesting history and why it is not so crowded as other foothills are now.
Dalhousie used to be the summer counterpart of Lahore before the Independence of India, much like Shimla was for Delhi, and perhaps Darjeeling and Calcutta. So when the Partition happened and the Muslim areas (apparently) went to Pakistan and the rest to India, Lahore went with Pakistan and left Dalhousie, the pretty little town on its own in India.
But not for long. They weren't haters. They were just doing what they do. What they were paid to do.
I laid stunned for a moment. And then on my back as I laid there, I saw the open skies. The deep blue calling. I heard for what seems like after forever, the soft brush of the grass against my face. The smell of moist earth swirling up into my senses.
They say, that a pig can live all its life not seeing the sky ever. Ever. Except on the day it dies.
I feel like that now. Not that I am dead. But that when everything is denied of me and when I am forced to lay back and stop everything I had been doing. I see the skies.
Blue. Pickled with drifts of clouds.
Calling me, beckoning me warmly. Affectionately. The earth vanishes. And all I see is the open sky. Calling me on and on.
I discovered a poet Anjum Hasan who was born and brought up in Shillong. Her poems and books echo of nostalgia of Shillong, like this poem called Coming of Age In A Convent School. She has also written two novels called Lunatic In My Head and Neti Neti.
Coming Of Age In A Convent School
The year is 1985
and Phoebe comes to class wearing a golden wig.
A group of girls walk around school with moles
carefully drawn above their lips in blue ballpoint ink.
They're in love with Madonna.
This is the year that Sister Carmel, our English teacher,
will refuse to believe that Boy George is not a woman,
the year she will talk animatedly about Live Aid.
This year everyone loves the sex education class
but pretends not to.
Sister Monica shows us a film in the library
about an American teenager whom everybody bullies
because he's still a virgin.
The point of the film is that he's a winner nevertheless,
and can't be cowed down.
Next year Prisca will have a baby
but this year she giggles and squirms like everyone else,
Often times I stop and think about my brother who lives in Delhi now, studying his butt off for MBA exams coming up this December. I also then think about my other brother who lives at the moment in Korea, also studying his butt off for, well, that's because that's what they do. And then I think about how I am here at the bottom of the earth (if you follow the earth as mapped by ancient mappers and has now come to be the general accepted version. Because technically, you see, there is no up or down when you are approaching earth from space. But before I get distracted..) I also start to think about my parents back home in Shillong, tending the vegetable gardens, my mother sitting in front of computer working and my father always the busy man never the one to sit tight and be idle.
I think about how up til I was 20 we were kept home and I was getting restless to get out of Shillong, dreaming of places beyond the borders of the possibles, writing imaginary stories and dreams of places. And then suddenly it all happens. Just when I turn 21 I am whipped away from my century old British holiday house in Shillong to the most unthinkable place in the world in Christchurch.
And one by one after me, my brothers also get whipped away, one to Korea and another to Delhi.
I always marvel about how seemingly scripted it all seems. Nothing happens for a while outwardly and then when it happens, everything else that was going to happen, happens.
Its the time of the day when the sun's turned golden, the tree's turned dark, the cars outside have lessened and you're just waiting for the night to come. You're in transition. The quiet nothing between a completed-something and still-to-come-something.
I set myself a task - to write a story about death. This evening. And I come out of the balcony in the glowing soft evening enveloped by garden trees that spring from the ground beneath me. Feel the soft breeze's kind stroke on my face, brushing my hair, and hear the dance of the leaves...
And the last thing I want to write about at this moment is death. I've never felt more alive than now.
Maybe I am becoming too modernist in my thinking. Or whatever the technical term is, if you give a rip about what the actual word is that I am refering to.
Modernist. Post-modernist. Whatever it is. Progressive. Alternative.
My point is, sometimes I feel what the world really needs is love.
(Haha, how stupid I sound.)
Not judgment not critics not justice not human rights not even religion.
Not the lovey-dovey-ing between lovers. Not relationships.
But love for human kind. The kind of love that hippies who crooned the Beatles' song 'All We Need Is Love' totally missed because they thought that making free love and snorting grass were the answers to the problems of the world.
Love for human kind. I don't know what that means though. But I remember one of my friends, when I asked him what according to you is God? said: Love.
If there is an absolute truth on earth that humans have access to, it is love. Love can never be wrong.
Charity done out of love. Discipline done out of love. Teaching done out of love. Words spoken out of love. Songs sung out of love. Work done out of love.
I bought a book last Saturday from New Market and I was highly under the influence of a pretty girl at the store. Anyway, let me narrate the story for you. My housemates were going to meet up with a friend over coffee at McDonald's! (Yuck!) They wanted to talk about their plans to move to Australia. I was having none of that.
Besides I have quitted multi national brands like McDonald's and Starbucks. That is another story in itself that I will write about some other time. For now lets just say I don't like the brutality in their marketing and the image of Westernism that they portray. You have way better indie cafes to go to here anyway.
But as I said, that is another story.
I went to this bookstore, not feeling very impressed with their look but because I had a lot of time to kill while I waited for the McD crew to lavish in their talks and cholesterol. I knew I wanted Kazuo Ishiguro's book and I looked around but had no luck finding it. The bookstore wasn't well planned out as well and it was a mission to get around and know what section you stood at and where you could find what sort of books.
So in time I went to the counter where this girl was there. She must be of Indian origin and she had British accent. I asked her if they had a book by Ishiguro and I didn't expect her to know. In fact I wanted to talk to the other sales lady who was older and who looked like the more knowledgeable type. We all make judgments don't we?
So she surprised me when she nodded and took me to a section that must have been for fiction (which I earlier hadn't really figured out). She looked up and down the stacks and pointed to the shelves at the knee level. There they were: Kazuo Ishiguro.
Had she read them?
Yes. She took one of them from the shelf, "This one is very beautifully well written. It is not everyone's cup of tea. Some people love it, some don't like it.." I think I was slightly impressed by her having read it.
"Ah. I read this one the other day the library," I picked the one called A Pale View of the Hills, "but couldn't finish it.." Because I didn't have membership yet at Auckland Library and it was shutting down for the day. "How was it?"
"Let's see what it says about it." She took A Pale View.. and flipped it over and read the back. "Hm, sounds depressing!"
I took Never Let Me Go from the shelf and said: "Well this was the one I was after. So, you would recommend these?"
"Absolutely. But as I said I loved it but it is not everyone's cup of tea. The one I read was about some kids who grew up in England and about their normal lives.."
"Slow paced.. nice."
"Yeah. And it is interesting how his writing is so much like English style even though he is not.."
"Though he is Japanese." I had done my homework. I knew the story of Kazuo Ishiguro than most people who have even read his books, including Sahaya the book seller, didn't know. (I saw her name on the badge she wore on her blazer). "He was born in Japan but grew up in England. He moved there when he was young."
We went back to the counter and I paid for it.
I was impressed by and attracted to the way Sahaya knew about the book that most people had only 'heard of' and the way she talked about the book in her Brit twang so I had no regrets buying it.
Also after starting to read it, I realised I have no regrets in buying the book because it is one of the more amazing books I have read to date.
Never Let Me Go is so beautifully well written. The way it is written is slow paced and narrates seemingly little events in the character's day to day lives but is a real page turner.
It describes the human behaviour and emotions by the mood it creates and not necessarily by narrating them in detail. I spent hours and hours reading it yesterday and am more than halfway through it. Maybe I will have finished it in the coming few days.
It is beautiful and still disturbing, slow and yet demanding. So glad I met Sahaya without whom I would have left the hideous bookstore and have missed out on this book.