Saturday, December 23, 2006


Today is my Birthday.
Yes i know you've heard this before - but i feel 'special' today :)
As if, for 24 hours, i'm inside this bright pink bubble that's bobbing around all over the place with me in it and everyone else is outside. I can see them, they're all pink, they're smiling at me -wide, bright smiles, and saying - 'Happy Birthday!, Happy Birthday!' , almost as if they're happy it's my birthday. Funny, yes..
I realised today that more than anything, ANYTHING, i love it when people remember. It's one hell of a high for me. When i leave out the 'date of birth' column blank on orkut, and people still call at 00:00 hrs, it makes me want to jump and do cartwheels.
Fatty Macbeth and Tambram turned up at 00:12 am, and surprised the hell out of me with a cake and all that ..
Yes of course i should have seen it coming, but Fatty Macbeth is not exactly your 'suprises' kinda guy. So i obviously thought it was Tambram's idea, but i was wrong about that too! I know Fatty feels really bad about last year, when he completely forgot it. I've long since forgotten but he hasn't :)
We ate cake, sang to me, and then decided to head out for some coffee.
Birthdays are fun.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sawai Gandharva Music Festival - Pune '06

Yesterday, i listened to Pandit Shivkumar Sharma on his Santoor at the Sawai Gandharva Festival. While i am passionate about music, you wouldn't exactly call me an Indian Classical Music afficianado. Not however because of any feelings of dislike, rather because i've never really been exposed to it in the right way. A while ago, I decided to change that.

I think the Sawai is the ideal opportunity for anyone interested in Indian Classical Music to take advantage of - whether that interest elevates itself to fanaticism or remains mere curiosity. These four december days offer a once-in-a-year treat of vocal, instrumental and dance performances by some of the biggest guys in the field of Indian Classical Music - Jasraj, Bhimsen Joshi, Amjad Ali Khan, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Birju Maharaj and others. And with tickets priced at 350 rupees for all the four days, it's probably also the cheapest. Years ago (the festival has been running to packed audiences for 54 years now) , when there weren't any restrictions on loudspeakers playing late into the night, performances would go on right through and beyond midnight hours, winding up finally in the early hours of the morning. It must have been beautiful listening to jugalbandi of the tabla and santoor while the sun rose.

There i sat on the ground ( referred to as 'Bharatiya Baithak' - Indian-style seating) among thousands of others with blankets, sweaters and sleeping children and listened under a star-studded sky to the sounds of magic and mountains. A cold, smooth draught of wind blew as Pt. Sharma started playing ragaa Rasikpriya.
I drew my shawl in tighter around me and smiled - i felt like he had just looked straight at me and called me beautiful.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Acid blazed through my insides, screaming through my veins, burning skin, melting tissue, leaving in its wake, thick patterns of mourning purple smoke that threatened to never fade away.
Trapped, I listen as you tell me about the dreams, magic, madness, anger. About hot, salt-filled tears that rushed out in fury. About Fire. Loss. Pain. Longing. About Her.

That night, I lay awake, listening to the restlessness in my veins, and hating, every time I closed my eyes, because that’s when I thought of all those promises that aren’t made, but taken for granted. I decided to keep my eyes open.

With you, I am already judged. Always. You’ve made up your mind and there can be no more discoveries about me – I’m all ‘figured out’, you see. Case shut, eyes shut, mind shut. All figured out.

Forever Misunderstood. Tongue tied and paralyzed by the shock, fury. That familiar feeling of an approaching let-down. Because from you, I expected clear skies, open spaces, curiosity. Oh, so much curiosity. You. You disappoint me.

Ah my friend, let me tell you this while I pretend that you’re listening, lying stretched out in front of me, flat on your stomach, face propped up on both palms, eyes wide, mind eager and open, listening intently – if you tasted my tears, they too would burn your lips and scorch your guts like hers did. If you weren’t so fucking blind.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Another Cut Cord

His words kept resounding in my ears. And something inside me just ‘shut’. Closed down and locked up with a permanence that was unmistakable.

In that one moment, I knew that I would chose to swallow my anger. I wasn't going to watch my pearls trampled under the feet of swine.

And so I did nothing. I also decided to leave for good.

Too much pride – she said to me, shaking her grey head. I must be humble, if I wanted to learn.

I disagreed. There are things that humility cannot teach. She shook her head, disapprovingly. I wasn’t convincing anyone, she said.

Perhaps. But I had no wish to. I was convinced.

Mediocrity isn’t borne just out of the absence of talent. It also arises out of insecurity, and the lack of any will to experiment. I was one of his fastest learners, a beginner who’d rapidly progressed to being a leader. Wasn’t it him who’d told me that? I suppose I’d expected time to rid him of his aversion for variety. I waited in vain.
It was that familiar case of the last straw yet again.

Singing has always been a passion – It lifts me up and I feel the skies rush down to meet me. Every single time. I soar and there is space for no one and nothing in those moments. Music is my first love.

Talent requires no affirmation except your own. It just isn’t talent, if it is tied down by a need so whimsical.

“No, Nayan, don’t take the A flat. It’s too high, you might go off – Wanson will do that”

And I blinked in disbelief. Why, hadn’t he just heard me hit the A flat flawlessly?

But it just took a moment.

I nodded and knew then, that my wait had ended. It’s time to move on.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Coward Who Changed My Life (The Blank Noise Project against Street Harrasment)

I used to feel that they’d always intimidate me.

That no matter how old I grew, however wise or however brave, I wouldn’t be able to get over that feeling. It’s hard to describe it- I wouldn’t call it fear, for I was never scared of them. Rather, it was a mixture of indignation, intimidation and sadly, even shame. So I’d always be on my guard in busy places, markets, parks, cinema halls – eyes alert, arms firmly by my side, hoping that I wouldn’t feel that purposeful grip or brush against my body – that unsanctioned touch that infuriated me but which I knew I’d do nothing about. They intimidated me, you see.

In time, I made a strange discovery, one that I hadn’t ever thought possible to be true – They were cowards. Inside, they were nothing more than small minded , mouse-like, sleazy, cowards. It happened one day when I was walking along a busy footpath. Coming towards me from the opposite direction was a man who seemed intent to walk right into me, despite there being ample space on the either side of me. Attempting to stem the discomfort that was beginning to rise in me, I decided to try a new strategy – I continued walking, raised my head high, shoulders straight back and looked at him. Right into his two eyes. Square. He met my gaze for a while but didn’t hold it for too long. He slowed his pace, the leer on his face began to fade away, he looked away, and stepped out of my way. Not for one moment till we’d passed each other did I break eye contact with him.

I realised that day, that they were not worth the dignity my meekness had been granting to them. In a way, that day changed my life. After that, when I detected intimidation rising in my chest, I’d dispell it immediately with the memory of the coward.

They say you win half the battle when you’ve conquered fear of it. I was determined not to shut up and swallow humiliation anymore – in buses, on streets, in trains, busy market places because I hated what my silence, OUR silence, had done for these small, mouse-like, sleazy cowards. It had elevated them to heights of bravado and arrogance that they did not have in them to achieve in any other way. I decided I wasn’t going to be part of it anymore and I was always going to make a scene.
So I did.
“Thik se khade nahi reh sakte bus mein?” (can’t you stand properly in a bus?) I’d yell loudly for all to hear. And I’d watch as he shuffled his feet, mumbled something incoherently, and looked away, keeping a great deal of a distance from me now.

“Move your hand, I have to sit here” I once said loudly to an elderly man sitting next to me in a train, who most coincidently always placed his hand on the seat I was going to sit in before I sat in it. He moved his hand before i had even finished my sentence. 
Old men, young men, middle aged men, married men, high school boys, fathers, grandfathers. I felt I was going to run out of puke.

“If you touch me again, I’ll break your bloody hands and then take you to the principal” – this was a college canteen waiter who picked the wrong person to get funny with. I never saw him after that– the man who'd lie in wait for me to walk down the corridoor so he could walk past me every day. This was one of the most satisfying days of my life. There were so many people that I knew, sitting there– students, laboratory assistants, teachers – I felt like shutting up and just forgetting about it, shoving it to the back of my head. But I couldn’t. My mind wouldn’t let me; it kept reminding me of what this kind of attitude had done for women in my country. Are you going to be part of the problem or the solution, Nayan?, it seemed to scream at me. I had to make a scene.

It angers me so much now when I see women on streets, in buses, movie halls, shopping malls, trains, being harrassed either verbally or physically and keeping their mouths shut. It happens everywhere– they just shut up, forget about it, push it away from their minds. They begin to accept it as a part of their ‘lot’, by virtue of being a woman. It makes my blood boil.
And yet, there are times I feel that perhaps I’m wrong in thinking this way– after all, it isn’t easy to face one’s fears. And who am I to apply a certain rubric to all women? There are so many dimensions to this problem, the biggest one being the socio-cultural set up in India that moulds the two sexes in different ways – something that's responsible no doubt, for most of this country’s problems today.

'India has finally arrived', Boink said to me. And that set me thinking. Bush is here with flowers, the arm of friendship, and the offer of collaboration. Our GDP rises steadily, Economy’s going great guns, Sensex breaks new barriers every fortnight, Indian techies seem to be the need of the hour, women are beginning to revolutionise themselves with jobs, security, money – Independence.
The tragedy is– the mindset seems to be unchanged. Inspite of all the so-called emancipation, we’re still intimidated. Intimidated by small-minded, mouselike, sleazy, cowardly men.

It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I’d like to peel the skin off my body, please

I wish I were my cat. Sometimes, like now, I think I’d give up all of what life has to offer a human being, if I could be a pet cat. They must be the luckiest creatures alive. All that life demands from them is to live. Nothing is what they’re called upon to do. Nothing. My cat eats, sleeps, wakes up, rolls over and goes back to sleep, licks herself a zillion times every day, poops occasionally, sits on the parapet wall , watched the world go by …

Why aren’t I a cat?

I’m in the middle of an experiment called Enzyme Concentration and Assay. For those whom biology didn’t beckon into her bewitching arms, Enzymes are biological catalysts. They facilitate every biochemical reaction in the living body – respiration, digestion, energy production , everything. To Assay an enzyme is to quantitatively measure, outside the human body,experimentally, it’s activity with the help of certain established parameters.

I’m Assaying Alpha Amylase,also called Salivary Amylase, the enzyme in our Saliva, that begins the process of breeaking down our food as soon as we start chewing.
We’re subjecting it to 2 stages of concentration, after each of which, the enzyme’s activity must obviously increase, since each step gets rid of ‘trash’ (contaminating carbohydrates and proteins, in our saliva), and concentrates the quantity of actual enzyme. Hence, activity must increase. This having been said, there is also allowance given for some degree of human error.

In my 6-year spanning intensive-ish biological study period, there have been friends, research guides, seniors, and teachers who’ve attempted to impress upon me innumerable number of times the irrevocable fact of nature that biological research requires a level of patience, fortitude, and unshakeable faith that would make the Virgin Mary herself, envious. And I’ve always borne such advice with patient amusement. Foolish optimism? Confidence? A very thin line.
It’s not that I haven’t had my taste of the frustration that is inherently every biologist’s undeniable ‘lot’, our cup of suffering, but sometimes, a taste of experience is perhaps just not enough, I suppose.

“ Young lady”, a wise gentleman said to me once, “biological research is like opening a box of matchsticks, flinging them high up in the air, picking them up,and arranging them one by one back into the box. And then doing this again. And again. And again.”

But, Nothing. Nothing had prepared me for this. For the past two weeks, I’ve been repeating, re-repeating, and re-re-repeating an experiment, that takes two days to do. With no satisfactory results. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to be re-re-re-repeating it tomorrow.

Two weeks.

Every time I repeat it, I think I’ve plugged some leak or the other. Ah but then, I forget – enzymes are perhaps among the most finicky and cranky biological molecules. Unless treated with utmost mollycoddling and pampering, they will (and I should know) make life hell.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the State Electricity Board that decides to cut power supply for 3 hours bang in the middle of every working day, to make up revenue some government or the other lost while giving free power to farmers. What this effectively means really, quite simply is Paralysis.
Centrifugation, refrigeration, optical density measurement, sterilisation (all essential steps in assaying biomolecules), nothing’s possible for those three hours. Not even a weighing balance can be used.

I confess that out of utter frustration, the thought of manipulating my results has entered my mind, but I feel like filth the moments I finish the thought. I’ve also thought of changing my enzyme and working with another one, but that makes me feel like a wimp.
If Science is true, infallible and conclusive, all of which I believe it is, then I must be able to reproduce empirically, what I conclude theoritically. I just must.

Sometimes, I get so furious thinking about all this that it just quadruples my determination to get it right the next time.Without knowing exactly whom my fury is aimed at. Tweak every nut that isn’t tight enough and not let even the tiniest indescrepancy go unnoticed.

Thank God for brand new days. For along with them comes hope, optimism, and enthusiasm, wiping away all memory of the failure that just hours ago, threatened to mince you and feed you to its pet hound.

Couldn’t be all that bad, I suppose, if I've come this far without trying to kill myself. And although it’s a bit difficult admitting it at this point, I know I’m still very much in love with the subject .

Thanks all for listening .I will keep you posted on the state of things.