Birdie, Birdie, Kee Gall Hai?

Or, translated from Punglish, whatever’s the matter, birds? The answer, traditionally, in Engjabi, used to be: 


But never mind, those were the days. Days when we used to be able to crack a joke, and find a joke in it, and laugh and toss the rest of it off as if it were a joke and no more.

You crack a joke nowadays, Allah naa karey, and before the sound of cracking is over, they’ve sent a team of rack commandos to your doorstep with Burnup Khowsaymi’s outraged camera crew in tow: GET UP, STAND UP, THE NATION WANTS TO KNOW. (Translation: It’s Me Who Wants To Crow.) Which thought might lead me astray, as happens often:

Crow, crow, crow your throat
Hoarsely down the stream
Horribly, horribly, horribly, horribly,
Life is but a scream.

There. No more. So much attention. Now go, get a haircut, and ask the hajjam to chop your lamb chops, and then roast them. And sweep them into the dustbin, for roasted hair, and yours too, must belong to worse. Lambs. Chops. Roast. I mean Bakrid just went by, I mean, have I no shame? You know what I mean? Chhee-chhee! I am so shameless. But there are always folks that better me. You know, who am I, humble me?

Applause. Applause. Applause. More applause. Please.

Applause. Aaaah. Right. Silence. Silence.

Silence. Thank you. Thank you, Laydaas and Joints, thank you. We are on the renewal of oaths.

We shall speak the lie, and nothing but the lie, because if not the lie, we shall have to speak the truth. And that’s not allowed. Nor is it safe. But most of all, to speak the truth is hard and to speak the lie so convenient. Lie, and everybody’s happy. Ever looked at your face in the bathroom mirror? Come on, you must have. It lies. It makes you happy. That’s all that matters. Truth hurts, the lie comforts.

Like birds flying in a chained and gagged city. Birds are flying! Hey, how much more normal does that city want to be? Or can be? Birds have the freedom to flap their wings and fly. How much more freedom do you want than the freedom to fly the sky?

Birds fly. And birds fly. When they wish to fly, birds fly. When you fire a bullet, birds fly. There are ways of seeing a bird fly. There are ways of telling why the bird flew. There is a truth to be told about it. There is a lie to be told about it.

A bird in flight can fly. A bird in flight can be shot. Both birds have flown, both can be seen flying. You saw one bird. I saw another. Or probably it was the same bird we saw. It flew. Then it was shot, and it became the opposite of a bird flying. You saw a bird flying. I saw a bird being shot. You said birds were flying. I said birds were flying. Then I said the birds were shot. Where were you? Oh, you’d departed the scene. With your truth. Birds were flying. But that was a lie. Because the flying bird was shot. And it was just consolation for you, you had seen it flying. It was just consoling to you, the lie. For the truth was hard to tell, and there was no convenience in it. Go on, have your way. You’ll still know you lied, and did not the truth tell. That’s the thing with lying, the liar always knows. The truth, it’s a far more unsure thing.

On lies I have the authority
In me alone must you rely
’Cause should you not comply
Remember I’m the majority.


The Upside Can Also Be Down

Where do we begin? There is no end to this, but that is not what I am at. There are, in the absence of ends, always new beginnings to make. But first they need to be found. When you have found a beginning you can begin to make it. Like roads. Where do you enter? Where do you end? What way do you go? There’s one road, but it can lead to at least two ways; and often more than two. Or mornings. Or in the mornings. Beginning. Beginnings. They can seem oftentimes like the end of dreaming and the beginning of nightmares. So? Now? What? The sardonic clock. Hmmm, shut me up again, yeah, but buddy I moved on, look where I am at. Past your resolutions, well past.

Those beginnings you’d resolved to make, all of them, past their date, past their time. It’s Sunday, for Pete’s sake. Pete? Pete. Never mind. Pete’s not a political slogan. Pete’s not a cry. Pete gets no one going, on Pete’s side or not. You don’t have to say Pete. You don’t not have to cry Pete. Nobody is saying, say “Jai Shree Pete”. Who is Pete? We don’t even know where he was born, if he was at all. We don’t have to build monument for Pete, we don’t have to demolish one for Pete. Pete is a cool guy. Pete is just one of those things, for Pete’s sake. Just let Pete be Pete. Think about beginnings. How many are there swirling up as possibilities. Which one would it be today.

A shock of fluorides. A flushing of nocturnal burdens. And why only those? Is there an end to burdens that must be flushed? Is there an end to burdens that can’t be flushed? Go on, make a list. Begin with yourself. Begin with where you live. That body. And it’s infinitesimally numerous parts. Bone, blood, sinew, cell, flesh, cartilage, vein, membrane, acid, enzyme, bile, gold, silver, copper, magnesium, potassium, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, neon, dysprosium, thulium, holmium and such other and many things which it will suffice to not enumerate here. Three’s a crowd. What would you think so many, packed together into the delusion of one unit, would be? Disorder. At best, a somehow functioning disorder. Now imagine sleeping on, waking with and carting along all the rest of the time the burden of such a somehow functioning disorder. So begin with the burden count there. And while you are at it don’t forget that we have flung far too many things into the sky now, and so soon enough they will begin to fall upon us. Or perhaps they are already falling, in kilo clusters. Those burdens too should be counted, they are ours. What goes up, heavens hear my prayer, does not all come down, but some of it does. Look out the window. There; it’s light and it’s coming through the panes. And then look down. Look at the moon, down there, in the corner at the bottom, peeping out of its dark side. No you didn’t wake up upside down, everything we understood to be one way probably went the other. It’s like the road you were forever on. You walked one way, and the road went another.

This is the road then. And every bit of it can be a beginning, it’s just where you begin. And who’s to know of ends, it’s where you end it, it ends.

So be sure to think
This is where it ends
It may only be a wink
And thereon it bends.


In desolate places, desperate men

One of the things men do is exceed. Women do it too. Of course they do. But when I say men, I mean it quite generously for women and then, of course, factually for men as well. Before correctness descended upon us with its callow and literal tyrannies, language had something called a metaphor, an instrument of conveying greater things with small things. Man used to mean men and women, it conveyed the sense of a collective. But how’s one to correct correctness? It’s a beast washed in virtue, and what do you do with virtue washed? That’s a vice all its own.

But I digress, as I am wont to, there being in this world of ours so many possibilities of digression and distraction. Ever been unfortunate enough to have possessed and used a smartphone? Perhaps you’d know what I mean. But even before smartphones, there were digressions and distractions. We were taken by them. We got distracted. We digressed.

We got distracted by the ugliest things. The moon, for instance. A cratered, forsaken, uninhabitable blob hanging about in space, whirring pointlessly round and round. And we made it a thing of beauty and mystique. Such are our deluded and desperate fancies. We tore to the moon, seduced by our delusions of what it might be like on the other side, seduced by what is not ours but another’s. We tore our way to the moon and we found an unliveable, ugly desolation; and once we had breached the distance and arrived there we could celebrate its beauty no more. We lose in proximity the imagination of distances, it is one of our essential follies. To venture where there was no pressing need to. To breach and to find it was never worth the effort.

But that is who we are; that is also how we have arrived where we are, into this chaotic, sorry pass. We’ve ventured where we needn’t have. We’ve regularly made misadventures of ill-thought ventures. Desolate minds will do desperate things. Willed by mindlessness, intoxicated on the farcical. We’ve waged in where even ravens don’t go. Where the sun doesn’t drop. Where nothing springs of what we can remotely call life. Where the air is so rare, you cannot bring yourself to breathe. We go looking for domain where there is no domain. We go looking for country where there is no country. We go looking to push lines where are no lines. We go looking for conquest where there is nothing to be won. We go looking for valour where there is none to be had. We go looking for God in God’s disapproval. Avarice cannot be in consonance with God’s scheme. Invasion and intrusion cannot be God’s scheme. Violation cannot be God’s scheme, violation of His spaces or man’s. Violence cannot be God’s scheme. Expansion cannot be part of God’s scheme, for where do you expand from and to what? All the realm is God’s. And so what we violate and what we intrude must be a violation of God’s scheme, and an intrusion of God’s scheme. And yet we do what we do. But perhaps what we have made of ourselves, and what we often do in God’s name, is not God’s scheme either. Look around. What heavy weather we have made of what was once the fertile birthing station of all manner of life — plant, plankton, animal, bird. Our proverbial Garden of Eden.

And we made of this tranquility
Such a waste, such a mayhem
But we so fancied our futility
We spared neither us nor them.


Water has Another Name, It’s Utter

Been wondering. Been wondering really hard and been tortured by such wondering. Should I say it? Is it not unremittingly sad that I should even have to wonder. And ponder? This question of whether I should say it or say it not? Where have we come? What have we made of ourselves? Who are the NewWe? We are not ourselves. What has brought us to this pass that we are having to raise these questions? To ourselves? And wonder? And ponder? Darn it, to the barnacles with it. Here it is. I am saying it, for this is how it was said and this is how it has best been said.

Allah megh de, Allah paani de!

There. Spoken. Said. Allah, give us cloud; Allah, give us water.
Will it not be cloud if Allah gave it to us? Will it not be water if Allah gave it to us? Forget the megh. Forget the water. Forget Allah. Will we stop to sing a song we have sung to ourselves? Will we rob ourselves the utter sweetness and pathos of it? Will we die thirsty and not sing that song which is ringing in our heads and hearts anyhow? It has rung, that song, each season since it was sung. It will ring even when you have chosen to forsake it. Remember. It will ring, it will sing, and it will be sung and heard no matter what. Believe me. When you don’t wish to hear it, you shall hear it most.

Allah megh de; Allah paani de.

Water is our community; water is not communal. Sought of Allah, it doesn’t merely fall on his sworn disciples. Sought of Ram, it does not merely fall on his sworn disciples. It falls even on those that are disciples not. Not of anything. Water is a democracy before the word was coined by, who were they, the Greeks? Water gives in equal measure; water takes away with equally ruthless measure.

It is what We drink and it is what They drink. It is what We die for the want of. It is what They die for the want of. Water is such a thing. It does not select and feed. Water is such a thing. It does not select and kill. Water is such a thing. Ever seen the shape of water? It is the shape of what you will make of it. You can make a killer cannon of it. You can make it the shape of a drip that sustains life. You wash in it in the uzookhaanas. You wash in it on chosen riverbanks. You never ask of it wherefrom it came. It never asks of you wherefrom you came. From your God or the rival God. Off your prayer or the rival’s prayer. Waters have poured. Waters have parted. Waters have cradled. Waters have consumed. Waters are who we mostly are. Look around you, you marooned fools, all around you are waters. And fortunate you are, for if you weren’t marooned, and if there weren’t any waters, you’d have by now been cinders. Cinders twisting about. Imagine water. Then imagine yourself. Most of it is water. You are water. The utter unmitigated gift of it. There isn’t much of it around for much longer. Which means there isn’t much of you around for much longer. Pray for water. Pray to who you can or wish to. But do not forbid another’s prayer for it, for when that prayer is answered it shall be answered for all. Rain and rivers, lakes and oceans, they don’t ask who you are when they give. Or when they take.

And so it comes to drop
With a sameness on all
And when it comes it says plop
Come one, come all, let it fall.


The Dead Go Where They Go

Most things die, but many do not. The mountains are still young, and they were young on the ancient. They were there, youthful props in the playground of the Gods, and they sprung springs and lakes about them, and rivers roaring down, and sprung valleys and dales eddied with flowers. Such valleys and dales that no human hand works, such valleys and dales that are magically kindled by unseen elves. Elves that live on heights no human can approach. Elves that service the schemes of the Gods. Those elves are young too.

And they are floating about, the air’s thick with them, little elves, dead elves but young elves, rising from that hot and poisoned abyss, taken by sweat and aches and fevers, their flesh sucked of vigour, their bones smashed and ground, the light of their eyes squeezed out, the life snuffed out of them to a lightness. Such lightness that it can only begin to float and go far away from grasp. Gone. Forever. Into the floating world. Young things, but no longer man’s things. Young things turned into things of God. Young things dead before their time. Most things die. Some things die before their time. Some things remain forever young — only a million years old, just growing.

Like the mountains, which are there, still young, when the Gods have become myth and lore, or perhaps they are still there, no longer visible. Or no longer wishing to be visible to the menagerie. No longer wanting to be part of this daily drag through the streets, the sound of a barked out cry or a hoot, no longer wanting to be invoked for politics and prejudice. But the Gods should have got used to this. To being used as material for politics and for prejudice. It is one of the ways Gods serve men. As material, and as medium. God, inspire me to fight that other God. God, let me build a house for you. God, let me be savage and slay in the name of that house for you. It may seem we are serving the Gods, but in truth the Gods are serving us. Or our purposes. But purposes too die, and we give birth to new purposes so that we may have cause to live. Such vanity and hope! We will die, all of us; who doesn’t? Of one this or another. And then we go. Some go down, six feet under; some go up, in flames, some lie flat as offering to be consumed. Is there more to it? Who knows? Do we remain after we have died? Who knows? Are we the sum of our body parts and no more? Who knows? The dead go where they go, we shall find out when we are dead.

Often we do not even know why the dead died. Most things die, but for this reason or that. Sometimes things die and we can’t tell the reason. We turn to guessing. We turn to Forbidden Fruit. It can kill. Always remember. That is why they say learn from history. Or myth. Same thing, in our time they are synonymous, history and myth — history can be turned into myth at the snap of a finger, myth can be turned into history. But the point is that those that do not learn from history or from myth are condemned to die by it. Or some such thing, don’t expect everything that’s writ here is right. Most things that are writ here aren’t. But be careful of Forbidden Fruit. Never good for health, and often fatal.

The one that the Apple did eat
The original Poisoned Fruit
That sin nothing did beat
And we repeat it to boot.


That Thing We Often Hold

You know what that is. Of course you do. It can be many things to many folks but what most folks mostly do with it is hold it. And holding it can mean many things to many folks and many different times. Holding it can be a thing of pride. Holding it can be a thing of habit. Holding it can be a thing of warmth. Holding it can be a thing of utility. Or necessity. Holding it can be a thing of endearment. If you cannot hold it you can lose it. Some folks can get very possessive about them; some are happy to have them taken around, you hold it, you hold it, you hold it, you hold it, you hold it, and then I can hold it back again. But often they hold it so another cannot.

Understood? What it is? This thing we often hold? Look again. Look at what you see below. Hint: looking is about perspective, looking is about angles. Look again. Think dimensions. Think the missing dimension. If we are agreed that there are only three dimensions and not a fourth. Now look. You have often seen what you have seen and never even wondered what you are looking at. It is such a commonplace thing. You have held it. You have looked down into it as you are doing now.

A cup is such a thing.

A cup is what we are talking about most these days, now that everything else that was to be won this summer has been won. The winners behaved like winners, even if they had to muck maraud it all the way, and the losers behaved like they had nothing to lose. They had more than a cup to lose, it was a whole country. The winners cupped the country. But all that’s over now; what remains are the consequences of that cupping. We shall see. What happens. We live and learn. Or do not. And are merely happy not to learn. To each his own. Oh my! My apologies. To each her own. That’s NewSpeak. Reverse. Reverse. Upturn Upturn. Right is Wrong. And Wrong is Right. And Right is Right, of course. But that no longer requires stating. The Right is cupping, the rest are being cupped.

But why a cup? Ever wondered? Why is the prize a cup? And not anything else? Not a shield anymore. Not a medal. Not a wreath. Not a certificate. Not a sceptre. But a cup. Why that shape? Why that contour? Why? World Cup. Of cricket. World Cup. Of football. World Cup. Of baseball. Although that is only ever competed for by red socks and white socks and cubs and padres and brewers and astros and cowboys and redskins and broncos and such lot. All of which belong to the midriff of one half of the continent we call Amrika. That midriff believes it is the world; and very often it rides out and lets us know it is. Maney, they turn into cops of the world and go around cupping what it is that they want to cup, regardless of consequences or collaterals. They just cup at will what they want to cup.

Like oil.

Which takes us back to cups.

Why cups? When there’s a prize to be given, why give a cup? But it turns out the original prize was not the cup but oil. The cup merely contained it. In Ancient Greece and in Ancient Rome, when they won the day, for butchery or for bravery, they gave you oil. Olive Oil. And to give you olive oil, they gave you a container. And that container was a cup. And so a cup it became. And now a cup is what we want, olive oil or not.

More things come in a cup than we often imagine. More things can be snatched when a cup is snatched, than we can imagine. A storm can come in a cup.

Two storms can come in two cups. Imagine that. Two cups. Two storms. Did someone make an offer recently? Why one cup? Take two. Why one storm? Take two. It’s possible. It can happen. Imagine. Go on.

The lesson, it’s been often told

That grab at it with glee

That thing we want to hold

And which never comes for free.


We are a very moving species

Chal mere bhai, tere haath jodtaa hoon, haath jodtaa hoon tere paaon padta hoon… Chal mere bhai… We have to move on, we must move on. We must nudge each other to move on. Get a move on. We have been here a while. A long while. We need to move on. Chal mere bhai…

But why?

But where?

For what?

What for?

But what sorts of questions are those? Why. Where. What for. Because. Somewhere. For the sake of moving. We move. We are a moving species. Where we have come is from moving. Moving all the time. Even Mahadeb moves. He moved, didn’t he? He went away. Inexplicably. Unexpectedly. Abruptly. In one night’s darkness. It’s been a while he moved. To where we still have no clue, but move he did.

So move… Chal mere bhai. Nothing comes from not moving, even the grass under the a.. oh, better not make a mention of such posterior portions here, although they are so all over and in the face these days. Anyhow, the point is that even the grass under the a.. — ohoooooooh! again — begins to stop to grow after a period of not moving. So move. Like we always have moved.

Even before we invented the wheel we moved. Albeit a bit slowly, but we moved. We moved continents, from sweaty darkened forests to cold open grasslands; we scaled frozen ranges; we cut through waterways perilous and placid; we marked seas and oceans with zig-zag traces; we trudged through deserts; we moved before the continents moved. We are movers. Drifters. We found a purpose to move and we moved. In search of food, we moved. In search of space, we moved. In search of greener pastures, we moved. To gather greater riches, we moved. To deprive others of riches, we moved. In pursuit of love, and mostly lust, we moved. For commerce or for empire or both, we moved. Or moved others. We have done that too — moved others, or forced them to. We have moved homes. We have moved cities. We have moved countries. We have moved the seven seas. We have moved the seats of thrones. And often we have moved thrones. Or those that sit on them. They are often the most deserving of being moved. And history is replete with those on thrones having been moved from thrones, one way or another. By dagger and sabre, by cannon and gun. Often by the democracy bullet called the ballot.

We have always moved. And we have gotten faster and faster at moving. So move. First the wheel. Then the cart upon the wheel. Then the motor inside it. Then faster. And faster. And faster. And faster and faster and faster. On the waters, a raft. Then a boat. Then a turbine. Then coal. Then diesel. In the skies, glider. Then an engine. Then a plane. Then a jet. Then a rocket. Then a spaceship. Then a satellite. We have moved. Farther and farther. Faster and faster.

Can you remember a time we weren’t moving? Can anyone remember a time when we weren’t going from one place to another, for one reason or the other? It’s with constantly moving that we have arrived where we have. Imagine where we would have been if we had not moved. Perhaps that is not even possible to imagine because we may not know for certain where we first moved from and towards where. But we did.

But there’s more moving to be done. There is no end to this moving. Please know this.

It is not advisable to remain stuck in the same space. It is not possible to remain stuck in the same space. There is a novelty to new spaces. That novelty fades. And that is one of the things that makes us move. The novelty turning old and the search for newer novelty.

Chal mere bhai

Let’s give it a try

The heat’s getting too high

Aur bahut pee lee hai chai.