AN ODE TO MODERN POETRY


“MY COLORLESS SOLITUDE”

As my skeptical mind wonders
How many out there can really write
poetry
Versus how many think they can
And make you and me believe it
for our brains don’t understand.

Damn, I think I just rhymed
That’s not how real bards do it.
Rhyming is for dilettantes; ne’er for them auteurs
Because modern poetry
is not about rhyme
What it also isn’t about
is reason.

It’s not conventional, for convention is passé
As long as we are the same kind of different
But of a different kind, all the same.

Some lines are excruciatingly long, like the never-ending brook, a meandering rivulet, the labyrinth of thoughts, an abyss of bad metaphors
Others, short.

It’s about variations in the lengths of its various lines
For variations give
it form.
And form, character.

Sentences.
Incomplete
sentences like these
make for complete
lines. An odd break
here.

(Also, every ‘here’ need not always have a ‘there.’)

An enveloping verb, an earthy adjective
Incongruous phrases
like “my colorless solitude.”
With a hint of pathos – melancholy to be precise,
And a paradox thrown in
For what can be more telling, than the sorrow of a smile?

Just vague enough
as you wonder if it makes sense
Yet, teasing with apparent profundity
so you hesitate to call out its absurdity,
Out of fear – fear that it’ll show
you’re not nearly as intellectual, you know

Besides, something so dark and vague must have to do
with that arcane thing
they chose to call…“Life.”

Do I have it all covered? Do my lines represent me?
Or does my verse only make it worse? (Sorry; just had to be pathetic, you see.)

Arcane, noir, vague check.
Profound, paradox, pathos check.
Form check. Character check.

So it is, in all its depth and profundity
And unnecessary redundancy,
My poetry, a glimpse of the real me
A hint of aura, a touch of mystery.
The dark side, the light side, and all things I believe
myself to be. Exactly
like how you believe yourself to be.

You and I, we’re not so different, don’t you see?
But for the fact
that one of us
writes terrible poetry.

7 Deadly Kinds of Twitter Followers

Admit it. After all that pooh-poohing about jobless people loitering on Twitter, you’ve graduated into acknowledging it’s a fun place to hang out. While it is a lot of fun to engage in banter with some of the best minds out there, I’ve come to realize this is one terrific place to observe human behavior and make up for those Anthropology classes you were too cool to take. Just sit back and watch for a while; you’ll be amazed how much – and what – you learn. In the meantime, I present to you to the seven deadly kinds of new followers you may (not) have come across:

THE ANGLERS: They will follow you and give you a day or so to follow them back. When you don’t, they will promptly unfollow you, but their offer hasn’t expired just yet. They will give you time to regret that you didn’t follow back when you had the chance, and will follow you again after a few weeks. This is your chance – follow them back, or they won’t follow you again. Forever, or till the next chance they decide to give you, should you be worthy – whichever they think comes first.

THE HAMMERERS: These are the social media equivalent of corporate climbers. They know exactly who and how many people they want following them within the next 6 months. If you are what people consider The Elite, they’ll follow you, and focus exclusively on you till they have your attention. All their RTs and adulatory mentions will be for you. They’ll reply to almost anything that you say (If you don’t believe me, try tweeting “I had cereal for breakfast this morning” or “Brad Pitt rocks!!” The first one to reply “with whole milk or 2%?” is the Hammerer you’re soon going to succumb to.) They’ll do what it takes, praise you, interrupt converse with you, reply to every tweet, heck even prepare the topics you like, and RT you left and right till you are finally a sucker obligated – or flattered – into following them back.

THE SEDUCERS: Clever lot. They’ll watch you for a long time. They won’t follow you, but they’ll observe who you converse with, and carry on extensive dialogs with them. Occasionally, they’ll throw a casual tweet your way and go back to ignoring you – or start a gradual dialog (but still not follow you yet), until one day you happen to follow them. Rest assured, they’ll follow you “back.” It was all so smooth, you didn’t even realize it.

THE REDUCERS: These are people who want to expand their horizon while narrowing their focus – all while maintaining a high follower to followee ratio. They keep preening their list obsessively time and again to see who they can unfollow every time they follow someone new.  If you haven’t been on your toes tweeting to their interest or interacting with them, off with your head!

THE VOYEURS: Oh believe me, these guys admire you. They want to follow you. Why, they even would, had it not been for the fact that they have a whopping 850 followers – as opposed to your paltry 64. Now how will that look on their résumé? But do not be deceived by these Tweeting Poms – they may not follow you, but they will go tippy-toe and peek at your tweets every now and then.

THE MUTUAL NON-FOLLOWERS: Technically, these guys don’t quite need a title to themselves. They’re only a sour-grape version of the Anglers above. They’ll follow, unfollow, follow, unfollow till they finally realize you aren’t really going to follow them unless they start tweeting topics of your interest. They’ll then take this casual approach of “Oh it never really mattered anyway! We don’t follow each other, but we still converse; there’s mutual respect and it’s all good.”

THE CHINESE CHECKERS: These are the guys, who like the hammerers know who what they want. They don’t really care to follow you; your role is only to stay put so they can jump across you and land right under the nose of that coveted celebrity who happens to be your friend. They will find their way in a conversation, @reply to you like it’s you they want to talk to, and sneak in a courtesy @reply to your friend on the side. From there on, it’s just a matter of hammering. Or seducing. They will know exactly which. And now you will too.

What would Athe do?

My great grandfather would say, “people who do not like their beliefs laughed at should not have such funny beliefs.” He was an atheist. In fact, rumor has it that it was he who founded our religion. We’re Atheists: followers of Atheism, devotees of Goddess Athe.

I was born in 2078 to Atheist parents. I’m not sure how young Atheism is, but given that grampa Rick started it, it shouldn’t be more than over a century old. I’m told he was mighty proud to be an atheist too! But the funny thing is, people say he didn’t even believe there was a God – which is confusing, because if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be here worshiping Athe today.

My dad, however, says grampa Rick didn’t really do much for Atheism. He just went about his business and scoffed at everyone who’d waste time praying instead of working hard. It was my grand uncle who actually did all the work. It was he who went around propagating our religion, handing out pamphlets, calling meetings of all Atheists and converting people to Atheism.

We Atheists aren’t very rigid. But we do have some protocols. If we want something good to happen, we can put in a request to the FSM. Or for that matter, when something good does happen, we always make sure we thank the FSM. Again, no one really knows who or what FSM really means. They say it stands for For Some Money. Because you can register a request to the FSM once you pay some money for the good of Athe. (Notice that we Atheists don’t pray. We only request.)

A few old people say FSM stands for the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Apparently someone started it as a joke and the word spread. But I think that theory is just ridiculous. I mean, think about it – does it even make sense? Spaghetti is something you dig a fork into and eat! And heck, it doesn’t even fly. Well, what do these old farts know anyway? My bet is it is For Some Money. Or perhaps even Find Some Method (to deliver true Atheists of their predicament). Now that makes sense. But who really knows all these things?

You must be thinking our religion is crazy. But just wait till you meet the more conservative folk – the Agnostics, devotees of Agnos, and Skeptics, devotees of Skepses. They sure are a curious lot. Some of their protocols – or “customs” as they like to call it – are so absurd! Customs, really? Who practices customs anymore? And oh, get this: to add to their confusion, there are some people who call themselves skeptics, but do not worship Skepses. They go about saying they should not be confused for Skeptics. What’s with these people? What difference does a capital letter make? I don’t care whether you eat a potato or a Potato, you’re still eating it!

Oh well, I could go on. Thanks for listening. You know, I’m not really as religious as my mom would like me to be, but when I’m in a fix I do ask myself – “What would Athe do?” And you know what? It works wonders!

Now if you will, I’ll go grab something to eat. I seriously hope there’s a restaurant around somewhere. All I see on this road is a temple for Believers – this one apparently has some amazing lemon rice, but alas, I’ll never have the good fortune to taste it. Atheism does not permit us to go near temples.

We are Indian, and so is our English!

Only in India will you see ‘only’ as emphasis at the end of a sentence. This is one thing that the rest of the world will never get only. We are a quirky lot that way. Seriously, you will freak out if we told you how much we look forward to freaking out. A man can tell his wife he’s stepping out to catch a fag – or that he’d like to make a quick stop at the booth for an STD – and she won’t bat an eyelid.

It’s all been a part of our growing up. We give tests at the time we should be taking them, and we spend hours mugging in their preparation. Yes, in India, mugging is something only “good students” do. Unfortunately, it won’t help them when they’re being mugged by the “bad students.” One thing I guarantee you, however: whether you’re in India or in the US, mugging will almost always be followed by an eventful passing out.

An Indian student I know was perplexed when his friend asked him for a rubber to uh, “do” what he had to do. Understandably so. It’s counter-intuitive for an Indian to imagine how a rubber could be used to do, when its purpose – as we’ve always known it – is to in fact, undo. You could well argue that a rubber used for prevention is better than one used for cure – but come on now, don’t you wish rubbers in  the US could do the magic that Indian rubbers do – erase your mistakes?

Unlike your Lady fingers, you don’t want to discover our Lady fingers in a sinfully delectable Tiramisu – unless Tiramisu to you is Gumbo. In any case, our vegetarianism isn’t just limited to Gumbos – even our jokes could be veg. or non-veg. And mind you, we take our royal heritage seriously. Fun, sleep, bathroom all come to us.

We will ask you for your goodname, and introduce ourselves as “Myself, Goodname Surname.” We will be very eager to meet you – because you Goras are much cooler than us Indians (or at least so we all believe). In fact, we will even go so far as to do jugaad, take the long-cut, travel out of station, and even bring along a tiffin for you. And in case we cannot contain our excitement for too long, we might just ask to prepone our meeting.

Well, by now you must think we have mangled the English language beyond recognition. But alas, even when it comes to doing something wrong, we don’t quite get it right – Indian English is considered one of the official and recognized dialects of English. Most, if not all terms above have legal usage. No apologies, we’re Indian – and so is our English. What to do? We are like that only!

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Afterthought: I have a theory Indians invented the mathematical postfix notation “za”. As in, “two one za two; two two za four.” Unfortunately, some ignorant killjoy told me that it is actually “two ones are two; two twos are four.” I shall reserve my verdict till the fact has been verified. What a shame!

Edited 141209

If you liked this post, you could read my piece on Marathi English on the MacMillan Dictionary blog.


A Market on the Drug

What nature set out to do, the pharma companies took upon themselves to upgrade. And understandably so – it must be hard to run a business on just the finite supply of official diseases nature has to offer. Medicines to cure diseases are so 60′s, as are vitamins to prevent them. That leaves drug companies no choice but to do what they’ve become so adept at – invent diseases! Come on now, don’t even question its ethics – advertising has always invented the need for commodities one could completely do without.  Why not extend that idea to creating diseases? Say, for instance, Apulchritis” – the condition of not being stunning, drop-dead gorgeous.

I must confess, upon being told of the existence of cosmetic drugs, my ever fainéant mind was quite thankful in anticipation of the twenty potentially saved minutes. Imagine, you swallow this tiny pill, and the blush, lip color, mascara etc. magically appear on your face.  Of course, all in a perfect blend so it looks like you never quite wore it to begin with. It’s another story that this isn’t exactly what cosmetic drugs mean. In fact, they promise something even bigger. Mascara is apparently for losers – so what if one can make it appear magically on one’s lashes? The real deal lies in enhancing them [sic] lashes themselves. And while we’re at it, let us tighten up that skin as well. Because if you’re too smart to subscribe to what we (want you to) think, the least we could do is make you feel miserable for having “inadequate” lashes, or a non-20-year-old skin when you are 67.

Oh, of course it’s all tested and proven! Well, uh, kind of – did you not look at the before/after pictures that has transformed so many suckers clients? I’ve always wondered if these before/after pictures actually allude to before/after Photoshop®. But that’s for me to wonder and them to no – for them to deny, that is.

I don’t exaggerate when I say pharmas are the world’s next superheroes. They don’t let tinpot agencies like the FDA get in the way of their creativity. Oh don’t get me wrong – it’s not like the FDA is ethical uptight about such innovations. But well, their approval is required, and they are answerable to authorities themselves. So instead of bothering the poor agency with incessant appeals for drug-approval, why not invent a way to get around them? Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Neutraceuticals – you know, that “stuff”, which isn’t quite a medicine (since medicines need FDA approval), but it’s a very “necessary” dietary supplement to prevent any “disease” the drug might have cured? Yes, any disease. Even marginal weight gain.

I have always appreciated genuine creativity. I have nothing against the genius of these inventors, nor will I stand in the way of fools suckers their clientele.  But dear pharmas, while you are at it, would you humor the woes of a small blogger and come up with a solution for small things that annoy much? Here’s her wishlist:

Aspirit: Asprin’s little cousin; completely eliminates hangovers.

Pedolacrytinnitol: Shuts off the adult tympanum to the shrill whine of a child once the frequency reaches that of F#. Recommended daily use for mommies, occasional one time use for air travelers.

Macromemory Plus: Enables one to still remember the big things after making sure the tiny details are taken care of. This is for those out there who remember to pack the phone charger and camera batteries, but leave the phone/camera behind. You know who you are. (Unrelated: There might be some husbands out there who want to try this out.)

Micromemory Minus: Selectively erases any painful memories – or for that matter happy memories that might make the present painful. Yes, they did make a movie to this effect. But I assure you the pill will be better – it won’t have Jim Carrey.

Flavorridex: There are some dishes that otherwise taste phenomenal, but for the presence of one atrocious dominating flavor. Yes, that annoying bay leaf or some overwhelming cardamom in an otherwise harmless dessert. Take Flavorridex, and you may savor the delicacy with your choice of the unflavor. Available in various non-flavors.

Irony Plus: Helps reduce or eradicate sarchasm. Especially when it’s you the sarcasm is directed at.

There, that’s a start. I refer you to the imaginative readers for more gems.

Sorry Time, Grime Time

Every so often, you need to do something you’ve pointedly been avoiding for a while – even if it is only to remind yourself why you’ve been avoiding it. Come on now, I don’t need to tell you of the smug complacence of being right all along. Among the many things I’ve been avoiding lately, the toddler Story Time and Rhyme Time at the local library somehow resurfaced to cajole me into attending a session. In case anyone is wondering, the fact that Twitter and GTalk were down had absolutely nothing to with this. It was out of no choice a conscious super-mom choice that I decided to step out and subject my little one to some serious torture literary enrichment at the library down the road.

I realized I should stop congratulating myself on having taken the trouble to brush my hair and drag myself out at 10 a.m. when I saw a clique of moms all dressed up for Oscar night, waiting for the doors to open. To be fair to them – if they must travel 40 minutes in sun and traffic for a 15 minute Story Time, they may as well make up for it with their little black dresses.

Like all things glamorous, Story Time comes with its own set of unwritten rules. Topping the list of prerequisites is a matronly woman with a cherubic smile, translucent stockings, and a Croft and Barrow knit cardigan, regardless of the weather. And uh, it isn’t just her refrigerator that one can call full. Next in line is a book with the picture of some goofy looking bear or duck. If not that, some construction vehicle with a pair of aww-just-look-at-my-cuteness eyes and a smiley face will do too.  Of course, the picture is nothing if the title doesn’t fit the snowclone “X the Y”- where if X and Y cannot rhyme, they absolutely must start with the same silly starting sound. For instance, Dorky the Duck, or Baddy the Bulldozer, if not Honey the Funny Bunny.

So the fun begins as Ms. Sarah greets all her “little friends” with an Oscar-worthy fake enthusiasm. Some “little friends” will respond with an apathetic but very genuine blank expression. The others will continue to pick their noses, too focused for anything else, even a woman’s charm. But yes, the moms will all sincerely chime “Hellllo!” in unison. For the data nerds amongst you, the descending order of excited folks will be Ms. Sarah, the moms, blank friends, nose pickers.

Nevertheless, the story that begins at a low B will progress all the way to an F-sharp as it gets more and more exciting – for Ms. Sarah, that is. Somewhere in the middle, the bear will have encountered a little boy and would growl baring all this teeth. Or the duck will have met a gnu or some other exotic creature ducks wouldn’t otherwise meet. That’s enough cue for the imprisoned histrion within Ms. Sarah to be unleashed. All she has to do is scrunch her nose and bare all her teeth and say, “Looks like you have lost your way from home, little boy!” That’s it. All the kids will throw their head back and laugh. She could well be saying “Two systems in thermal equilibrium with a third system are in thermal equilibrium to each other, little boy!” with a scrunched nose and baring her teeth, and the kids would still throw their heads back and laugh.

By now it’s a good ten minutes into the story, and little yoghurt cups and Cheerios  containers find their way out of the handbags of the more anxious moms. Why, some even dare to bring bananas. Never mind that it’s just five minutes for the routine to end. Never mind that the child has not shown any signs of acute hunger pangs. But of course, he must be hungry at this precise minute. He hasn’t had anything since morning, other than the two waffles, a banana and that glass of milk an hour ago.

Poor Ms. Sarah has no choice but to take the hint, and flip through the remaining pages at a visibly enhanced speed. She will try to sound as enthusiastic with her good-byes as she did for her hellos, but who’s really listening? With a hurriedly muttered thank you, mommies and the toddlers make a beeline to the exit, so as not to miss the kids’ lunchtime. Thankfully, the library floor is spared of stray Cheerios, yogurt lids and banana peels.

That does it. Entertaining as the experience always promises to be, Sorry Time and Grime Time will always be one sloppy mom short.

Faux Amis

The good thing about living in a foreign country is that you can learn a new language. The bad thing about living in a foreign country is that you often learn a new language the hard way. No wonder then, does the tonsured guy at the airport take offense when he hears someone shout “Hey, bald man!” in his direction. Much as his glare and angry fist may sound justifiable at that point, I assure you there would be some who might empathize with the poor German instead, for the slip. Having realized the horror of his faux pas a tad too late, the hapless Herr has no choice but to emphatically repeat – in German – “Hey bald Mann! Komm doch bald!” (Hey soon man, come on soon!). Phew, a close shave, indeed!

If you speak more languages than one, you must surely have come across false friends, or as the caviar-connoisseurs would say, faux amis. The kind of friends who talk to you smoothly, and get you into trouble just as smoothly. Like Juan, this suave Mexican friend I had back in the university. If there was one thing that gave either of us a juvenile kick, it was to embarrass the heck out of other at the most opportune moment. Imagine then, how the tables were turned on me when in my naïve triumph – and my broken Spanish – I exclaimed “Está intentando dejarme embarazada!” Naturally, I was certain I was saying “He’s trying to make me embarrassed!” It was the price I paid to learn a new word that day. Embarazada, in Spanish means pregnant. Not embarrassed.

Let that be a lesson, my friends. You’ve often been told appearances are deceptive – but don’t let that fool you; they really are deceptive! Your German friend may well want to give you a Rat when you’re already feeling low and confused. Believe me, she means well. Of course, you could repay her kindness with a Gift on her birthday, if you want to. But then, you don’t want to. When in France, avoid sitting on a chair. But even if you do, don’t fall off it when someone casually mentions they put their clothes in an expensive commode.

And finally, bear in mind – a jar of peanut butter should be the very last place to look for a preservativ, almost any place in Europe. Unless of course, you are – in more ways than one – f**king nuts!