Six lanes of traffic…

A long time ago came a man on a track
Walking thirty miles with a sack on his back
And he put down his load where he thought it was the best
Made a home in the wilderness
Built a cabin and a winter store
And he ploughed up the ground by the cold lake shore
The other travelers came walking down the track
And they never went further, no, they never went back
Then came the churches then came the schools
Then came the lawyers then came the rules
Then came the trains and the trucks with their load
And the dirty old track was the telegraph road

Then came the mines and then came the ore
Then there was the hard times then there was a war
Telegraph sang a song about the world outside
Telegraph road got so deep and so wide
Like a rolling river …

And my radio says tonight it’s gonna freeze
People driving home from the factories
Six lanes of traffic
Three lanes moving slow …

The lyrics above are from Telegraph Road , a masterpiece from Dire Straits.I am amazed at the simplicity with which Mark has put down how a civilization builds up around a point and how we as humans have a way of complicating everything around us.

In the last 13 odd years that I have been out of my home town I have the opportunity to visit and stay in various cities.Like little children I have watched them grow into puberty,youth and decay in their old.Arguably I ain’t seen enough but from what I have I can say I don’t wish to anymore.

Taking example of my own town Lucknow in which there used to be a neighborhood called Gomti Nagar has now transformed into a modern city by itself.Places where we used to cycle around,sit and chat,smoke casually without a care in the world have all become shopping Malls,Multiplexes,Hospitals,Hotels ,Schools and what not.Every time I go and visit my folks there is a deep sense of alienation as if this is not the place I grew up,these are not the people I knew,these are not the same streets and lanes I walked ……….this is not the place I want to come back to.

They say that the land prices have soared and I don’t know whether I should feel good or bad about it.Hundreds of houses have been converted into commercial spaces and the street next to my place is now a declared ‘Commercial area’ by the city municipality.Thankfully the lane we are in is still quiet and peaceful but then for how long ? As soon as money has satiated its appetite once and hunger strikes again you will have the house next door on sale to a White goods showroom.

I have seen it happening in New Delhi,Bangalore,Hyderabad and Lucknow.I don’t know how or what prompts us to indulge in this  madness.Shops,shops and then some more shops.Offices,Offices and the some more offices.Factories,Factories and the some more factories.

I remember we were once on a highway and stopped by to have some tea at a roadside stall.Everyone started commenting on the slow pace of life,the lackadaisical attitude of the farmer sitting in a corner by the tube well and how things will never change around here.While we were all animated and stressed in our conversation I just chanced to look at the face of the farmer.Peaceful,calm,contended looking far away into the eternity oblivious of our silly ranting.I think I got my answer so I stopped being a part of the debate and walked away.

In his book Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainance  Rober Pirsig asks a question –

Are we working for the factories or the factories are working for us ?

If you don’t want chilled water you don’t need a refrigerator,If you do not want to know how the world is going crazy you don’t need a TV….and these are just some smaller examples.I have tried to give up on various gadgets and I found that life goes on perfectly fine without.In fact it was better  before they ever arrived.

One of my friends is making a house up on the hill,another friend is tilling his own land and cultivating his own crop.I guess I will be building my own road very soon…..

At the end of the day


In restlessness they roar

the  waves strike ashore

Casting an ominous shroud

the sun sets  behind the cloud

It leaves without a word

the scene looks so  absurd

I won’t give up without a fight

though  I  dread another long night

Watching my twisted destiny

I am the lonely tree

Its getting dark ;  you are so far away

I am all alone ,  at  the end of  the day

The winner takes it all

Here’s an old ABBA song we all grew up with.Its wonderfully redone by Meryl Streep for the Movie Mama Mia !

She sang the song and acted at the same time ,moreover, it was picturized live.I fell in love with her act when I first saw ‘The bridges of Madison County’ and she has bowled me over once again.

Beauty is not a prisoner of age, Its the spirit within that shines.

Applause !!!

I don’t wanna talk
About the things we’ve gone through
Though it’s hurting me
Now it’s history
I’ve played all my cards
And that’s what you’ve done too
Nothing more to say
No more ace to play

The winner takes it all
The loser standing small
Beside the victory
That’s her destiny

I was in your arms
Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I’d be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules

The gods may throw a dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It’s simple and it’s plain
Why should I complain?

But tell me does she kiss
Like I used to kiss you?
Does it feel the same
When she calls your name?
Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say
Rules must be obeyed

The judges will decide
The likes of me abide
Spectators of the show
Always staying low
The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all

I don’t wanna talk
Cos it makes me feel sad
And I understand
You’ve come to shake my hand
I apologize
If it makes you feel bad
Seeing me so tense
No self-confidence
But you see
The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all

The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all

The winner takes it all

O’ Calcutta !

Calcutta or Kolkata as of now has a unique character.At the first instant its stark – misery,squalor and chaos are discomforting but as you visit again and again the sights and sounds start becoming a part of your psyche.

Its life – at its fullest;  struggling for survival one moment and ecstatic at its existence the other.The human drama unfolds and like a black hole of emotions it sucks you in.Before you know you are a part of the landscape.

The Rs 2 a plate lunch,the casual hangouts(addas),the maidan(big ground),Victoria Memorial,The Howrah bridge,The new market and the river Ganges catch you unaware and with a slow pace that’s so characteristic of this ‘City of Joy’ seep in to become a part of you forever.

Here are some images that got etched in my mind …








Friends Forever

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends ~ Martin Luther Kings Jr.

We were having our evening tea a little late.On the TV they were talking about an actor’s life.My wife  asked me just out of the blue – Who is your best friend ?

Casually I reacted – No one

She said – Do you at least have a friend ?

I started thinking not sure if I was scanning my phone list or  looking  for  a definition of friendship.

I could not make up my mind and told her I am not sure .

But you get so many calls,so many emails,you keep writing, blogging,going places ?

You are right.May be I have a freind but I don’t know.Never really thought about it .

OK  – how about X ? she said

He is an acquiantance.

and Y ?

We do business together

and Z ? you guys go out and all

That’s because sometimes I don’t feel like talking to the stars after two drinks.

But they must be thinking you as their freind

I don’t think so.If they were it would be unjust on my part….

But you give them an impression of being a freind

Never thought about it.I don’t think so …I think they know about me just like I know about them.

The doorbell rang.Children were back from the neighbors house and I could hear her giving them instructions to wash hands,drink their milk and start studying.Familiar sounds ,even my mom did the same.

I switched on the bedside lamp and picked up Maupassant’s short stories.

I could not read.I was disturbed somewhere deep down.I had no friends I thought.Did I ever have a best friend ? I decided to rewind my life from the very beginning just to be sure that I had no manufacturing defects.

Went back some 30 years – The yellow bus, hot tiffin,Dirty shoes, smell of chalk , white shirts tucked out,ties knotted 6 months back…. two boys.

” So what are you going to do ?”                                               3230398214_59bf02fd22

” I don’t know?”

“Papa will surely thrash me”

“My Dad will lock me up in the dark room with the ghosts”

” If only We did not have to show our report cards”

” Yes but the teacher wants them back signed”

I saw fear in my friends eyes.

I had seen excitement in them when we had played together a day before the exam.I could not imagine him locked up in that black hole.I wanted to help.But how ?

” Wanted to ask you something”

What ?

Have you failed for the first time?

Yes.How about you ?

Me too ?

So you never had to get your report card signed from your father.

Yes.This is the first time the teacher has asked me.

Our eyes met for a while.I knew that he knew what I was thinking.

We opened our school bags and exchanged the report cards.

Next morning as we waited at the bus stop there was a smile on our face.

“How are you doing Dr. Singh ? ” I said mockingly.

“I am just fine Dr.Srivastava.” Came the reply.

For that moment we were friends….best friends.

I had got my answer.I smiled and went back to my book.