Monday, February 28, 2011

This is how bus stop of our office building looked like on Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sometimes while reading you come across a sentence or passage that stucks in your mind for a long time after. Following is part of Prince Mushkin's first discussion with Epanchins from Dostoyevsky's The Idiot which I absolutely love.

"As to life in a prison, of course there may be two opinions," said the prince. "I once heard the story of a man who lived twelve years in a prison--I heard it from the man himself. He was one of the persons under treatment with my professor; he had fits, and attacks of melancholy, then he would weep, and once he tried to commit suicide. HIS life in prison was sad enough; his only acquaintances were spiders and a tree that grew outside his grating-but I think I had better tell you of another man I met last year. There was a very strange feature in this case, strange because of its extremely rare occurrence. This man had once been brought to the scaffold in company with several others, and had had the sentence of death by shooting passed upon him for some political crime. Twenty minutes later he had been reprieved and some other punishment substituted; but the interval between the two sentences, twenty minutes, or at least a quarter of an hour, had been passed in the certainty that within a few minutes he must die. I was very anxious to hear him speak of his impressions during that dreadful time, and I several times inquired of him as to what he thought and felt. He remembered everything with the most accurate and extraordinary distinctness, and declared that he would never forget a single iota of the experience. "About twenty paces from the scaffold, where he had stood to hear the sentence, were three posts, fixed in the ground, to which to fasten the criminals (of whom there were several). The first
three criminals were taken to the posts, dressed in long white tunics, with white caps drawn over their faces, so that they could not see the rifles pointed at them. Then a group of soldiers took their stand opposite to each post. My friend was the eighth on the list, and therefore he would have been among the third lot to go up. A priest went about among them with a cross: and there was about five minutes of time left for him to live.

"He said that those five minutes seemed to him to be a most interminable period, an enormous wealth of time; he seemed to be living, in these minutes, so many lives that there was no need as yet to think of that last moment, so that he made several arrangements, dividing up the time into portions--one for saying farewell to his companions, two minutes for that; then a couple more for thinking over his own life and career and all about himself; and another minute for a last look around. He remembered having divided his time like this quite well. While saying good- bye to his friends he recollected asking one of them some very usual everyday question, and being much interested in the answer. Then having bade farewell, he embarked upon those two minutes which he had allotted to looking into himself; he knew beforehand what he was going to think about. He wished to put it to himself as quickly and clearly as possible, that here was he, a living, thinking man, and that in three minutes he would be nobody; or if somebody or something, then what and where? He thought he would decide this question once for all in these last three minutes. A little way off there stood a church, and its gilded spire glittered in the sun. He remembered staring stubbornly at this spire, and at the rays of light sparkling from it. He could not tear his eyes from these rays of light; he got the idea that these rays were his new nature, and that in three minutes he would become one of them, amalgamated somehow with them.

"The repugnance to what must ensue almost immediately, and the uncertainty, were dreadful, he said; but worst of all was the idea, 'What should I do if I were not to die now? What if I were to return to life again? What an eternity of days, and all mine! How I should grudge and count up every minute of it, so as to waste not a single instant!' He said that this thought weighed so upon him and became such a terrible burden upon his brain that he could not bear it, and wished they would shoot him quickly and have done with it."

Friday, February 11, 2011

How Much Land Does a Man Need? by Leo Tolstoy

I remember when I was a kid I watched a drama on PTV based on this story. Towards the end it had background sound of a beating heart that became my nightmare for many years. I don't remember the name but I always wondered what it was. Just few days back I randomly stumbled upon this story and instantly found it familiar.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recently I randomly discovered a small bakery that makes some really awesome cookies. Nothing too extraordinary about them. In fact they lack some or have less amount of ingredients generally found in cookies from other bakeries. But I really love them. Sometimes I have to go through an hour of non-budging traffic to buy them. One day I offered them to a friend and after tasting his response was that they were "vapid". Similar thing had happened before when I took my roommate to my favorite restaurant specializing in authentic Italian pizza. His response after eating pizza was this: "Not enough spices." These got me thinking about our pattern of liking things. What I find is that we like in-your-face kind of stuff. Something that is exceedingly loud and earthquake alike. Below is my feeble attempt to identify them.

Social aspect: Folks with louder voices, huge houses and long cars have big impact on society and are looked upon as visionary leaders and saviors of everyone and society in general. Silent folks with humble opinions are ignored vehemently. Their voice is never given due attention to. Their opinion buried deepest in the pile of social noise. Just take a look at politicians, the loudest ones are the most successful. They don't even have to have an opinion of their own. They just have to throw huge amount of shit on the opponent to win. Loud and big-mouthed uncles and aunts are widely heard in our families. When we discuss something we talk loudly and overlap each other's chance to talk. Silence, which is just as necessary a part of discussion as talking, is never even considered of. And yes, we don't even rank an act a crime unless its a murder, even that at times.

Design: When we think of design we imagine this: An explosion of colors with lines and huge number of little ornaments flying here and there. And the topping of golden and silver, but shining, beads. So many and bright colors that eyes start to bleed. When I told my dad about a well designed poster I wanted to print he was excited. Later when I showed the actual print and he was like "What's 'designed' about it?" I got curious. I decided to show it to everyone in the immediate vicinity to get an opinion. To make long story short almost everyone wondered where that design was which I kept mentioning. Just like silence is to discussion, whitespace is to design. Look at our architecture, so many unnecessary and nonfunctional elements. Apparently we are in a war with the duo of minimalism and functionalism.

Food: All of our favorite dishes have two things in them: Meat and a truckload of spices. We like tastes that don't have to betasted. We like tastes that deliver themselves to us, in explosions. Then we rush for water and probably jugs of them at a time. We can't taste a silent taste. We can't feel something that's not generating explosions. We can't have a cake which is not 80% sugar. We like intense kicks in our taste buds instead of enjoying several small details. I am sure if we give someone who is accustomed to Desi food a foreign "vapid" dish, he is going to vomit that out.

Music: Speakers. Huge. A bomb in the air. Screams. Whole city dancing. Jazba Junoon. Shout. Louder. Louder. With so few instruments vocals overshadow small little intricacies of musical notes. Its like a throat is killing so many tiny little chirps. Sometimes I wonder why they have piano for music. I hardly ever noticed it in any song.

So, what that means? That means we like to be blown away by anything we see or hear. Everybody's facebook stream is full of that "must watch" stuff because that's how we get attention. We love books that take us to an intense instant gratification instead of those boring classics. I say, maybe its time to pay some attention to that weird guy mumbling something in the corner. Its time to see the worlds that have been around us all the time but we have been blinded by dazzling walls of noise.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011