Saturday, June 29, 2013

Writing me down

A month ago I started keeping a diary. At first it was merely one of the many diversions I had been trying. Except that this was one that began to take a life all its own, other than solely its diversion aspect, its reason of being. The first day I wrote a diary, there were only bad things to write. Actually, to be honest, that wasn’t just the first day. As noble as this month-old tradition now seems, its beginnings were rather rheumy. I distinctly remember the third day. Each new letter on that day’s entry seemed to me at that time an unwelcome, almost officious, replacement for a fullstop. I still call it a fullstop and not a period, as is the norm in polite society; I guess I’m somewhere still a stickler for dramatic effect. But when I look back today at that day’s page, it does not seem all that bad anymore. It does make me sad to read it, but then I notice that even at the tenterhooks of that sepulchral, sodden stillness I managed to make the cursives look delicately done and had made sure that the commas and semicolons were given their just due in the world. And then it’s better, in the worldy way.

Sometimes I write in the middle of a crowded subway ride, and it does occur to me when I do that that somebody might imagine me lunatic, but if reading tomes in the subway is kosher, I think that writing a page down shouldn’t be too conspicuous. Sometimes I write my diary sprawled prostrate in the Central Park. That is, now that I think of it, my favourite place to write the diary. With its vast green expanse all around you, and from beyond it peeking at you the colossal skyline of centuries of human enterprise, and all of it umbrellaed under the same blue sky that I gazed at as a four year old in Ranchi – the place has an aura of grandeur and intimacy all at once, and for a moment it feels like writing down the little details of my comparatively featureless life is the most natural thing to do, as if under this vast umbrella the trivialities of my day will assume a vastness themselves, an importance, a place.

The first time I went and lay down in the Central Park after work, I felt like sleeping there under the sun. And so I slept, in the crisp formals that interns at investment firms invariably wear. When I woke up a couple of hours later in the crumpled bleached white shirt and the crumbling green grass specks all over it, I felt the best I had felt in days. A feeling washed over me: that I was still a good person, despite whatever. Unreasonable, yes, that sleeping in the grass should in any way have that self-fulfilling consequence, but why would I complain.

When I woke up, people were hanging out all over the park. Couples mostly, all of them happy and uninhibited. There was also the occasional gang of girls. And then there were the solitary reapers, the people photographing everything and everybody. And of course kids. Kids and moms, actually. I realize that the women that I am most attracted to without personally knowing them at all, are increasingly women with their little kids. Sometimes pushing their little ones in a baby-walker while they shop at a mall, but more often playing with them at a park’s swings and inclines. It’s a dangerous predisposition, I know. “I don’t act upon it” as they like to say.

I didn’t write anything about work. I am not sure what to write here about it. You are never sure about these things – what would be appropriate, what would be deemed crossing the line, and all those auxiliary doubts. But I will mention that I had a conversation over lunch with someone who was some time ago the chief economist to the Treasury Secretary. I even had a theory about why the historical positive correlation between sovereign bond yields and risk assets is not holding up anymore, and he seemed happy with the reasoning. Somewhat cool, I guess.

Don’t know what else to write. Will come back, hopefully.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

On being back in India after an year in US for the first time

Relatives like to ask you rhetrorically "wahan pe hain aise majey?" You have to stop yourself from saying "haan hain, isse zyada hain." even though if you said this you'd just be replying truthfully. But then hamaare kuch sanskaar hain.

You picked up a habit abroad: you say thank you to everyone - barbers, tailors, vendors, gatekeepers, doctors. No one responds. Most look back at you in bewilderment. But this is still OK, really. Then there are times you say thank you to friends or cousins too, when then they curve a contemptuous lip and go "Saale bhai ko thanks bolega!"

You notice how the following of queues is a philosophical abstraction, not a reality. And you suffer for it. Time and time again.

Girls once again start giving you the "come a step closer and I'll call the police" look when you weren't even thinking about her until she gave you this look. And there it starts feeling like home once again.

It feels very, very, very hot for the first day or two. But it takes a really short time to get used to it again if you've spent your whole life here.

Something quite the opposite of what happened when you first went to US happens. When you first go to US, you look at the simplest sandwich - this is at a grocery, mind you, not some fancy eatery - and see 6.99 and quickly convert it to something close to 400 and go "screw you" in your head, "I don't need this shit. No way." Now you come back to India and you want to have one samosa and your first impulse is to convert it into dollars, but no dollars dude, this is just 25 cents. Goodness gracious me, I'll eat four!

You appreciate how judiciously all resources are utilized in India. The West appears once again what it appeared to be when you first arrived there - a place where people waste things a lot.