Monthly Archive:: April 2014

Of places and stories in our minds

It is the combination of things we remember that point out how certain places are special to us, hallowed by their unique features and our own experiences in them. It matters not whether we intended to go there, or whether a series of serendipitous choices led us there.

What matters is that there will always remain memories and thoughts that make such places important in our lives – they are not just physical locations anymore, but are defined by the veneer of history that everyone who goes there leaves on them. Embedded within these layers are the people we were with, the events that took place there, and those that almost did. There are landscapes and beaches, skylines and walking trails, restaurants and cafes and a host of other places that together with the dust and grime of the present grow to be places with character. They recount the fun conversations and stories by the bonfires on the beach, of shared campgrounds and hastily pitched tents, beautiful sunsets and walks on steep trails, jumping into hot tubs and drives across beautiful vistas, of wines tasted in the brilliant sun and dinners in lush riverside restaurants, of people met in passing that we may never see again and of friends made along the way who are today important influences in our life; of people telling us how lucky we were there at just the right time and of a sense of accomplishment of achieving things we never thought possible – or even considered doing, of messed up timings and missed dinners, of lying randomly on beaches and staring at starry skies, of shared food and localized disappointments, of train journeys and sudden passport checks within borders, of passing samaritans with offers of food and help, of breathtaking events and funny incidents, and of all the times just spent enjoying the moment, with past worries and future tensions becoming completely non existent.

These are memories within all of us which we can go back to retrieve, drawing them out wisp by wisp till something – be it a snatch of music on a passing station, the whiff of food on a campfire, a familiar perfume, the road sign pointing to a familiar location, the smell of eucalyptus, or just the mention of something that takes us back to a particular time and place – binds them all together and takes them from just being tenuous threads in our heads to being a solid, real mixture of events, interactions, people and places which drive our passions, soothe our hearts, shapes our experiences, and ultimately, make us who we really are.

We are, after all, nothing but the stories we create for ourselves.

An Ode to Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate

When the inimitable Mr Seth,
penned that beauty, The Golden Gate,
little did he dream that one day he would,
inspire a rhyme, that if it could,
serve as an ode to that gorgeous book,
and inspire others to take a look,

at a city he spied from across the bay,
its skyline rising on a gorgeous day,
from Indian rock out there in Berkeley,
or from the top of the campanile,
the fog framing its rolling hills,
lending its residents some shivers and chills,
and inspiring him, as if in a dream,
to voice his thoughts in a stream,
and pen a tale like none before,
one that would go down in lore.

When I first heard of this story in verse,
in iambic pentameter, and not at all terse,
I was in awe, as some thoughts arose,
grasping a book in poetry, not prose,
for the last of the epics that I knew with rhymes,
had been written in ancient times,
here was someone starting afresh,
and competing with the likes of Gilgamesh,
I decided then it was worth a read,
who knows after all, where it would lead?

and so one day, after a copy was mine,
I sat down to read, while it was still sunshine,
the pages, they went flying quickly past,
the next much more alluring than the last,
telling the tale with much charm and style,
with wit and verse taking it that extra mile,
the story of four friends, John and Jan,
Liz and Phil, and even Paul, the also-ran,
weaving the ups and downs of modern life,
of love and laughter, and of trouble and strife,
into a tapestry of colors bound together so well,
that the rhyme you read, must on it dwell.

The twists of fate they say have a will of their own,
and that you reap the seeds you’ve sown,
but I personally think these thoughts quite trite,
even though I may someday believe them right,
it’s hard not to get yourself drawn,
into the story, as it goes merrily on,
and pause to reflect on what things might’ve been,
if you yourself had been in the scene,

for, would you be that dreamer John,
on whom many a woman would fawn?
or perhaps you have all the charm and fizz,
of that lovable lawyer girl, Liz,
where would you be if your life was Phil’s,
trod upon, but bearing life no ills,
or for that matter, the sensible artist Jan,
making sculptures and paintings only as she can?

The tale is over then, it’s been sublime,
this quintessential californian novel in rhyme,
has done what it tried to strive
for, brought our four friends alive,
one is sad that this comes to pass,
the last page is finally turned, alas.

One day, walking around Dolores Park,
ideally of course, when it’s getting dark,
there is a spot where you can stand,
with someone you love, perhaps, close at hand,
and stare across, to the twinkling lights,
taking in the beautiful sights,
the bridge in the distance, all aglow,
zigzagging lights, a crown on show,

your mind’s at peace, your face a smile,
without you realizing all this while,
the wind blows from across the bay,
the trees in front of you lightly sway,
a fog horn in the distance calls,
and slowly then, a silence falls,
this enchanting city yet again enthralls,
a dreamer, but this time within its walls,
to pen a rhyme about this city fair,
the golden gate looks on, from somewhere out there.


PS. With all due inspiration to Vikram Seth.

Rain in the city by the bay

The skies of San Francisco have suddenly opened up in a torrential downpour, enveloping everything in sight and washing away the tiny pinpoints of light that dot the city in the cold embrace of an inky darkness. Outside my window, as I sit here writing in the warm environs of my living room, is a park across which in a small space between its boundary and the house next to it resides a homeless person.

He’s usually covered in plastics, some sort of light, a number of cushions and scavenged items in a shopping cart that I can only presume offer some protection from the elements. I generally try not to be affected by the plight of the homeless and the poor in this city, thinking about and eventually letting go of how unlucky they have been in life to be in the situation they’re in now.

But tonight, I can’t help but feel bad about what he must feel, huddled in the small space without a roof, trying his best to protect himself from the increasingly wild rain.

I can’t imagine the events that brought him to this, but I just wish life had been fairer to him.