I am excited for the IPL playoffs that begin today. Even though I’ve been a staunch supporter of Mumbai Indians from the first year of this league, somewhere deep down I want a new champion this year. So, I will be rooting for the Delhi Capitals, the young team.

From whatever little I’ve learnt about the man in the last 4 years, if Trump loses the election, these are going to be a couple of tumultuous months. Some unprepared uproar. Lots of vile tweets. Kindness is unlikely.

There’s a pathway near my home that I took a stroll on today - it was so calm, and so close by that I’m surprised it took years for me to walk there. It’s never about the distance.

It’s not the extraordinary that astonishes me anymore but the usual. Such has been the year.

One would think with the lull outside, with hardly anything to do outside, it would be easier to concentrate on work or a hobby. But we human beings have mastered the art of not staying bored, rather surround ourselves with more distraction than we can handle. Only us.

Dave Winer writing on how uneasy he feels about the impending US presidential elections. Is it so bad, really?

I wish I had a big Pause button, let’s just hold here for a while. I’m more comfortable living in limbo than knowing the outcome of Tuesday’s election.

Liked a review for The Trial of the Chicago 7 – sums up my thoughts about the movie really well.

Aaron Sorkin is way too good a writer to be forced to work with such a mediocre director as Aaron Sorkin.

With the way IPL has played out this year, I’m sure the mood in many teams room is a tad dreary. Many performances picked up late causing reshuffle of the points table towards the later half. Though only Mumbai Indians have been consistent, I hope we get a new champion.

I just created an account at Letterboxd, I’ve been delaying this for no reason. I love Goodreads because I can track and get the recommendations for books. I’m sure Letterboxd will do the same for movies.

I wonder though, can I rate a movie high, yet still not like it?

On Motivation and Writing Prompts →

Prompts don’t “force” us to be creative: they give us an excuse to practice, to play with our tools, and, if we’re lucky, to make discoveries we might not otherwise have made.

I agree with Robert - prompts are to get you practice writing.

I came across this opinion from Jack Baty about static sites and I completely agree with him.

[P]ublishing a static site is like sending a document to a printer. I have to make sure everything is connected, that there’s paper in the machine, and then wait for the job to finish before seeing the output. If something needs editing, and something always needs editing, the whole process starts over.

There was a time when I enjoyed building my site with Hugo, but I never got comfortable with the writing flow then. Once I got tired and moved away, I’d made up my mind that I won’t ever sign up for a static site for my blog again. I firmly believe that blogs aren’t the right candidates for static site generators.

Blogging platforms need to be light, free - something that static site generators, with the way they are setup, can never be. Jack’s got just the right metaphor to express my thoughts. Writing does feel like priting a document with static sites.

I am not too convinced with this reverse toonification experiment of Pixar characters - every result’s too close to uncanny valley for my comfort. Especially the eyes, they look terrible wrong. The larger, rounder eyes look good only on toons.

I really enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 - it was an absorbing account of an event I didn’t have much information about. I usually like the well-made courtroom dramas and this one was no different. And I also usually love Sorkin’s method of telling stories and, again, this one was no different.

Though debatable, Sorkin is a master of narrating true stories, keeping you glued to the screen as he unravels more details about the story. He has also mastered his signature style to blend varying and often opposing, narratives and perspectives without letting the drama drag any moment. Even though I didn’t know much about the event, I was completely involved and moved at many moments.

Also, as I was watching the trial play out, I thought Sorkin must have taken a lot of liberty in presenting the facts – especially the actions of Judge Hoffman. No human can be such an asshole, I thought. So the first thing I did was to check how closely were the event and the trial presented. I was surprised to find that most of the key moments shown were true – even the judge’s behaviour.

As unbelievable as it seems, Judge Hoffman, born in 1895, really did act with the malice shown in the film, dismissing objections from the defense before they were made and arbitrarily excluding evidence, witnesses, and even jurors.


Through the Dark Clouds - A Short Story

The lady on the microphone announced in her squeaky voice, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Mumbai airport.” Oas groaned, closed his eyes, and contorted his face like only an exasperated 75-year-old can. Having heard her numerous times in the last couple of hours, he was tired of listening to her any more.

“Does she think I’ve never been to an airport before?” he muttered under his breath. “Bah. I’ve been on planes for longer than she’s been on earth!” The staff was running helter-skelter on the airport with some angst that Oas couldn’t fathom. “Freaks,” he sighed in disappointment.

The constant low hum of the music from the headphones of the young guy beside Oas didn’t help his mood either. As the guy shuffled in his seat, the huge laptop on his lap brushed against Oas’s arm again.

“Do you want my lap too?” Oas blurted out loudly as he knew the guy couldn’t hear him. “Take it, I am happy to help you save the world which is what I assume you must be doing,” he continued muttering. The guy hardly budged.

Bored of the one-way conversation, Oas got up and stood gawking at the hustle-bustle around. He was a lost alien amidst the time-poor professionals. He walked to a television screen in the lounge playing CNN. A news scroll read about a novel disease spreading through China. The main news being run on the channel though was about a kid at the Mumbai airport traveling alone. Oas massaged his forehead in disdain, wondered why this was news, and walked away.

He began to stroll around the airport. He had to buy nothing, but he also dearly wanted to interact with another human being. He wandered through the Crosswords bookstore, hoping a salesperson would ask him if he needed any help. No one did. Lacking the patience to browse around the towering walls of disparate books, he walked straight to the bestseller section. He glanced at all the self-help books crowding the non-fiction racks. The fiction ones were full of tales from fantasy worlds. Oas was fond of neither; so he strolled out. 

He saw a deserted coffee stall. Hoping that the person selling coffee would be as bored as he was, Oas walked to him. The person was seated on a low stool chair; to Oas’s disappointment, even he was lost in his smartphone’s screen.

“What’s hot?” Oas asked the guy with a wish it would trigger some small talk.

“We only sell coffee here,” responded the guy without glancing away from the glowing screen.

“Do you serve it hot?” Oas quipped.

The guy hadn’t looked at Oas yet; he didn’t even now. He jerked his face towards the coffee vending machine and said, “We serve it however this machine dispenses.”

With all his hopes for even a meaningless interaction crushed, Oas ordered a cup. The guy shrugged in annoyance, got up and walked to the machine. He served the coffee with eyes as dull as sloth’s. “Sorry to put you through so much trouble, my friend,” mocked Oas. The sarcasm in his voice was lost on the mindless guy. He responded, “It’s alright.”

With a bitter taste in his mouth, Oas walked back to the gate buzzing now with the regular pre-boarding bustle. A lot of people had gotten up in the anticipation that the queuing would start soon. “Would they prefer to stand up longer just to be ahead in the boarding queue?” Oas wondered. “Just so that they could sit inside the plane longer?” The rationality behind the thought had always stumped him.

“Mr Puri?” Oas heard a soft voice calling for him. He turned to face a flight attendant, smiling a very plastic smile at him.  The nametag on her read ‘Anjali’. Oas stopped himself from telling her that she had unnecessarily puffed her face with makeup. She had helped Oas earlier at the check-in counter; he had stopped himself even then. 

“Would you please follow me?” It sounded more like a command to Oas than a request.

He looked at her, puzzled. He couldn’t think of any reason why he should follow her. “I’m ok, Anjali,” he said curtly. “I don’t need any help.”

“Sir, we have a priority boarding policy for all the senior citizens,” she spoke without letting her two pepper-red lips touch one another for long. “We will get you on the plane first.”

Oas stared at her like a child would at his examiner. “Why does the world make us elders feel a lot more helpless than we are?” He didn’t have much choice though; the stewardess looked adamant. 

“Fine. But I would need to be taken care of. I don’t want to get stuffed in and forgotten,” instructed Oas.

“Won’t happen, sir.” The plastic smile didn’t leave Anjali’s face.

Oas followed her. He was stuffed into the plane. And forgotten.

Oas looked at the kid from the CNN news report boarding along with Anjali. He wished the kid wasn’t sitting anywhere close to him. Sure, Oas was yearning for interaction with another human being, but he was convinced that kids didn’t fit that category. He did not hate them. He just believed they were dispatched by God to make people live through misery right on earth for the sins they have committed.

“Kids are too clumsy,” he used to tell his wife, Sara, “and too stupid to spend any time with. All they can do is leave you more frustrated than you were before.” Sara, on the other hand, believed they were godsent to spread joy amongst the grieving souls, to teach them valuable lessons about life. “That’s why God sent us no child. We are not grieving, you see.” She used to joke with tears soon shimmering in her eyes. Oas let her settle with her fantasy.

Oas saw the kid follow Anjali till they reached right next to where he was seated. She started pushing the kid’s backpack inside the overhead compartment. Oas dropped his face in his palm; the kid saw him do that.

“Avik, this is your seat, right next to nice Mr Puri here,” introduced Anjali. “I’m sure you would enjoy your flight.”

Oas saw the kid slide onto the seat next to him and blurt, “Thank you!”

Avik shuffled into his seat by the aisle. He looked towards the open overhead compartment. Then he stuck his neck out into the empty aisle. He wanted to see someone around; he didn’t. Displeasure cloaked his innocent face. He then looked at Oas who had picked up a magazine and was clearly pretending to be engrossed in it.

“What are you reading, Mr Puri?” Avik was looking curiously at Oas.

“Nothing that will interest you,” Oas answered curtly without looking at him once.

“I don’t think you like reading Mr Puri,” continued Avik. “You don’t look too interested in that book. My mum says if you enjoy doing something, you are always very busy doing it. So much that you won’t even answer a question from someone else.” Avik had pulled out the envelope kept in the seatback pocket and rummaged through what was inside. “I never answer my mum when I am watching cartoons, you know, because I looooveee cartoons.”

Avik was doing nothing to thwart Oas’s beliefs about kids, rather, he was only making them firmer. “Why are you alone, kid? Why are you not with your mum?” Oas asked while putting the magazine back into the envelope.

“She’s in Bangalore. My father is also in Bangalore,” said Avik while pulling out the printed safety instruction manual.

“Why are you not with your mum?” Oas asked again, thinking, “of course kids never answer the question that’s asked”.

“Because they are not in Mumbai?” Avik shook his head a couple of times and continued staring at the pictures in the security manual. “I was living with my grandma here. She is very old –” Avik paused and looked at Oas’s face again. “Not as old as you, though. But she still says she can’t fly; she says she is afraid.” Avik wasn’t accustomed to staying silent. “I am not afraid at all. My mum says I am very strong.” Oas himself had started rummaging through the envelope now, searching for headphones that he could plug his ears with. “She says I am stronger than all my friends in the school. Rohit, Sid, everyone. Neil does beat me sometimes, but I always hit him back. My mum says I am stronger than even my father. My father -” Oas had found the headphones and had quickly plugged his ears shut. He looked at Avik; he could see his lips move, but heard no sound at all. He breathed a sigh of relief. He was happy that he had booked a first-class ticket; at least they provided the customers noise-cancelling headphones.

Oas saw Anjali standing by the gate welcoming the other passengers that were boarding the flight now. He watched a couple enter the flight with a baby. The father was walking in front carrying all the luggage. The new-mom was struggling to carry the baby through the narrow aisle without letting even its sock touch anybody around. “That kid’s going to wail throughout the flight now.” Oas let out a deep sigh.

The guy with the huge laptop under his arm and headphones over his head walked in next. Oas smirked looking at him. “The Avenger,” he muttered and chuckled at his joke.

Oas felt a pat on his arm; Avik was gesturing at him to remove his headphones. Oas didn’t want to, but Avik had shifted his attention to work the seat belt that was holding him in his place. Worried the kid would set himself free, he pulled them away and gave Avik a probing look.

“Did you hear what I was saying, Mr Puri?”

“Sorry, I didn’t. You see …” Oas pointed at his headphones. “… I was listening to music. Now that is something I like doing, kid.”

“Why do you keep calling me ‘kid’? Everyone else calls me ‘Avik’. My mum says she spent many days thinking before she settled on that name. You know what it means?” Without waiting for Oas to speak a word, he bent his arms, flexing his biceps. “It means brave, just who I am, my mum says. But she always cries when she says that, though.”

The last statement made Oas freeze in his place. He saw a moving image flash in front of his eyes; of Sara hunched down next to Oas, laughing and crying at the same time. “Oh, I know you are brave, Oas!” He could recall Sara lying to him, preparing him for something he just wasn’t ready for.

“Why does she cry?” He asked Avik in a much softer voice suddenly.

Avik shrugged, “I don’t know.” He continued his assault on the seat belt.

Oas continued to stare at the kid, gloomy thoughts clouding his mind. Feeling increasingly restless, he asked, “Are you going back to your mum?”

“Yes, I’m. Grandma says my mum’s missing me. She always misses me.” Avik had given up on his fight with the seat belt. “Who are you going back to?”

“No one. I am going back to being alone.”

“Alone? Do you like living alone? Don’t you have a family? My mum says everyone has one.”

The innocence in the kid’s voice caught Oas off guard. “I had, once. I don’t now since my wife… uhmmm… you know - ” Oas wasn’t sure if the kid was old enough to understand the concept of death. This was one more reason he didn’t like spending time with kids. “They could keep making the mindless fart jokes around you, but say ‘shit’ around a kid and the whole world starts judging you,” he always complained. Sara was good at manoeuvring such situations; Oas wasn’t.

“What? Did your wife die?“ 

Oas was taken aback by this unexpected straightforwardness. He gulped the heaviness of the moment down his throat and nodded.

“But she did love you, didn’t she?” Oas nodded again. “So, why are you alone then? She must be still around, you know?”

Oas looked at the kid expressionless. His mind was full of questions that he knew he would get no answers for from this unripe mind.

“My mum says the people that love you do not go anywhere even if they die. They do disappear but continue to stay around. They never leave you.” He was busy unfolding and folding the tray table over his lap now. “My mum says she also is never going to leave me alone. I don’t know why she keeps saying that; I know she won’t.”

Everyone around had settled down into their seats now. A calmness spread through the plane that Oas didn’t share. Uneasy, he stared out the window into the darkness outside, illuminated by the occasional flash of lightning. Within, he was storming through the dreary thoughts.

Anjali was now ready with the security demonstrations. She was used to being ignored, but the kid craned his neck to take in every word she said. Oas, on the other hand, was lost in his thoughts.

“Uhhh … Why do they rush through these security instructions? Do they even want people to understand them?” Oas looked at him struggling with the seat belt again. He finally got it open and squeaked an enthusiastic “yay”.

“Cabin crew, prepare for take-off please.” Oas heard the Captain announce. Avik was jumping up and down on his seat; he didn’t look alone any more. Oas unbuckled his seat belt, stretched towards the kid and put him back tied to his seat belt. “Don’t you unbuckle the seat belt now. Your mum won’t want you to do that.”

Avik settled back into his seat. Oas locked his stare at the darkness outside. The flight took off, passing through the stormy clouds. The raindrops pattered against the window and then stopped suddenly as the plane cut through the low dark clouds.

Avik had unknowingly slid his hand around Oas’s arm. Oas smiled at Avik. “Your mum’s right. You are a brave child.”

Before there was Pixar, I had studied under this Pixar lamp. Those were the days when priorities were pretty clear.

There was a time when I loved using Last.fm. The recommendations were brilliant; they had also nailed the social aspects around music consumption. But once the music went streaming, I felt no need for this service. Does anyone still uses this service? For what?

I’ve been under the weather since a last few days & felt the worst yesterday evening. I haven’t fet this uneasy since a long time. I could neither sit nor sleep - walking too was difficult. I’d a terrible couple of hours - the only comfort was I was around people closest to me.

An apt reminder from John Gruber on why leaders still matter, they instill virtues.

A sense that we’re in this together, and that the quickest (if not only) way out is via short-term collective sacrifice. Wear masks, stay apart, don’t gather. Find more patience.

There are elections in US and then there are elections in India. I don’t know how it’s in US, but boy, the dance of democracy is in full flow here in India. You look at some rallies and wonder if we are really living through a Pandemic.

My quest for simplicity wins me over again. Simple is always better. It’s a lot less friction prone.

I have always1 wondered when is it that I write the most? What makes me active at writing? Or when is it that I stop (or pause) writing? Is the ease of putting the words out? Or is it the clarity of thoughts inside? I spend a lot of time on what’s outside, the immaterial material stuff. Rarely, do I spend time to peek inwards.

May be, just maybe, it’s not the CMS. Or the the blogging engine. It is the storm within that’s causing me to halt.

  1. Since the time I have started writing on the Internet. [return]

I wonder if I would be ok to post mainly from mobile, but as a regular micropub post. WordPress always allowed me to post so much more. I am not sure what m.b allows. It should be good enough, but is it really? That would be a test.

I have been writing a lot less recently - I wish I knew why. I think the prime reason for that is the recent change in routine. I’m not sure the blame lies completely there though. I just dont feel I’ve enough time.

Yesterday marked the beginning of Navratri, a nine-day festival for us Indians. And again, as has been the trend this year, the festivities are dampened by the phantom presence and talks of pandemic rampaging outside.

Each year, Ganesh Chaturthi, the long 10-day festival begins the season of festivals here in India. Everyone accepts that once the August dawns, it never is too long when we are already ringing the new year celebrations. We and our families are too busy with one festival after another.

This year the festivals did arrive, but the festivities were lacking. In India, we love celebrating our festivals outside, and with others. With our extended families and friends. We welcome them at home, and we don’t hesitate to visit them and wish them loads of happiness.

So no surprise this year’s festivals have been a lot different and a lot less fun. I understand the gravity of the situation that all us in the world find ourselves trapped in. But we Indians are known to dance away our fears and stresses together, as we celebrate our festivals.

From North to South, East to West of India, there are different names for the each (and at times the same) festival. But the purpose is common - celebrate the feeling of togetherness and of happiness that that togetherness brings to us. In that sense, this year has been dampening.

Anyway, Navratri began yesterday. Unlike each year, we are all working from home and hence have got a chance to be with our parents. Usually, my wife and my mother fast throughout these nine days of Navratri. They are not changing there routine, they will fast even this year. To keep me appreciative of how difficult that is, I have decided to fast today.

But the DJs blaring the loud sounds from the pandals set up for Garba are missing this year. Also missing are the endless debates between left and right on how we should stop spreading the noise pollution. Missing are the colourful stalls selling Gagra cholis and missing is the excitement of getting ready as per the colour schedule for each Garba night.

Sure, I understand the reason for all the gloom and also realize that we have bigger problems in front of us. But I abhor this year because it’s stripping away the opportunities from us to celebrate and gain the strength we need to face the problems.

I hate shopping for deodorant...

That sentiment is a lot stronger for me in today’s times of a pandemic that spreads by touching any of the open holes on a human’s face. I’m tensed anytime I’m to touch my own face these days, especially if I don’t have a hand wash or sanitizer around. I hate this crazy, fucking virus.

You can stop eating particular meat or can boil & reboil the water before drinking it. You can kill all the mosquitos around or have yourself bathed in repellant. But how the fuck do you not touch your own face? That’s like asking your kid to not put herself in harm’s way - she invariably will.

Anyway, with the bottled up frustration out of the way, my dislike for shopping for deodorant isn’t new. So much so that it’s no longer just a harmless dislike, it’s a feeling of extreme hate. How the hell do you decide if a deodorant is good or not? I don’t know how it’s done at other places, but here in India, trying out a fragrance from a tester pack is pretty common while shopping for a deodorant. Everybody does it. Everybody apparent can do it. Except me. I never learned how to keep the fragrances separate. Once I’ve tried two, everything smells the same to my picky nose - you might as well make me smell the water and still get a comment from me after that.

The way-out for me earlier was that I would only try a couple and select one from those. I can’t say it always works - I end up choosing one that smells the worst. Too strong or too mild or yuck. These are the only reactions I get from my family. I haven’t let that affect me until now - I have managed to convince myself that no one likes how the other smells. As long as I’m happy with how I smell - or there’s a complete lack of any form of smell for that matter - I was fine. So I bought whatever smelled best for me or didn’t smell at all from the two I tried.

This trial for fragrances is out of the picture in the pandemic times. There just are too many logistical problems.

What’s the other way then? You can for once judge a book by its cover or title, but there’s no way one can judge a deodorant by its canister. I mean all fucking look the same. You can’t select one because its nozzle opens up funny or the shape of the container is “different”. The content isn’t.

And what’s with naming the fragrances? Dark Temptation, Sea Drift, Thunder Bolt, Regal Burst, Voyage. When every fragrance could be named as simply as “strong”, “mild” and “mildest”, fact that marketing would spend so much time and money to come up with these names makes no sense to me. How am I supposed to select between Dark Temptation and Gold Temptation?

And the money that marketing spends on the advertisement for men’s deodorant must absolutely go down the drain. The only message they aim to deliver apparently is put this on and be a magnet for girls? Or be sensual? Or be “irresistible”? On the other hand, how can you even advertise for fragrance? The only thing you can say is it smells good.

Or simply strong, mild or mildest. I’m telling you, it is simple to solve this problem. Just use those names.

Anyway, I went shopping for deodorant today again. Looking at me struggling, toying around with all black canisters, the store owner pulled all the options away, kept one in front of me and said, “you will love this, sir, trust me”. That won’t have done it, but then he added, “you will click a picture of this and come again next time asking for this one”.

Once I returned home with that deodorant, I minutely stared at my reflection in the mirror, wondering what in the way I dressed gave that store owner the feeling that I can’t read English.