I’ve been in Delhi for more than a year now. If I were asked to name the first three words that came to my mind when asked to describe this city, they would be: haze, dust, and harsh. Harsh. That’s the word I use the most for this city. It’s harsh.
This city has its good spots. This city exudes history. You can’t help but be impressed when you see the Red Fort or Jama Masjid. The Lodhi Gardens are insanely beautiful and the tombs there are lovely. You can feel the gulf of years and you wonder about the man lying under the grave. You wonder if Iltutmish ever thought he’d have school children clamber up on his tomb and take stupidly posed photographs for their social media display photos. That must have made for an interesting nightmare. When I went to the Red Fort, I kept wondering what it must have been like at the height of its glory. Right now it’s a carcass. But back when the Diwan-i-khas still had its silver roof, the rooms were richly adorned and the Yamuna was not a drain, it must have been an imposing sight. Ozymandias indeed.
Yet the city is harsh. It’s harsh in the way it treats people. It’s harsh in the way people treat each other. Its climate is harsh and it’s harsh in the way people treat it.
I don’t really like the city. I live here because I have to. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t. But it’s the place to find gainful employment in the field I pursue. So here I am. But the city and I are not friends. We tolerate each other. I don’t like that it’s spread out so much and I don’t like how everything is so insanely spread out. I don’t like it that it is not really pedestrian friendly. I dislike the fact that primacy is given to vehicles. I don’t like the fact that public transport is so erratic. The metro is good but it’s not always convenient and the buses are a pain to figure out. I have no idea which bus goes where and, even if I did, their frequency does not inspire confidence. And I’m not a fan of catching autos. Walking in this city is not usually feasible. I like walking. I like going about a place on foot, enjoying the sights, stopping to look at something more closely or just listening to music and walking about. I like the pace of walking. I like the swing of walking. I like the feel of the earth under my feet. And I like walking because it lets me discover new ways and nooks and crannies. But this city is not conducive to walking. Unless you do it in spaces set aside for that purpose. Then it’s brilliant. But I don’t walk for my health. I walk to walk. And there this city does not help.
I dislike the way people are quick to pick a fight here. And I dislike the fact that I’m also becoming quick-tempered. This city covers you in a patina of anger and frustration and you lash out at small things to ease yourself. I can see it happening to me and I don’t like it. Maybe it’s the climate but small things can escalate quickly here and everybody feels they’re the one wronged. Which, a moment’s thought will tell you, is scarcely credible. But there it is.
I don’t like the way people push and try to get ahead all the time here. Be it an auto or a shop, they have to run and get ahead. I can’t understand it. What are you going to achieve by running around everywhere? Do you think it makes you look busy and efficient? Do you think it makes you look important? I’m bewildered by this urge to get ahead of everyone. It’s especially annoying when it happens at the Metro. Just stand in a fucking queue already! Why do you want to sit so badly? This is especially annoying when everybody is already standing in line and some asshole will deliberately try to cut ahead. More than anything else, it clogs the door and then people are pushing from both ends. Why must you push? What do you think is going to happen when you push? As a result, I now keep my elbows out and bang such people with my shoulders and shove them with my forearm. See what I mean about patina of anger and frustration?
This also happens on the streets. If the traffic slows down, invariably some idiot will decide to get into the opposite lane and try to get ahead. This, of course, causes the opposite lane to clog up and so people in that lane get into the opposite lane and now both lanes are clogged and people are yelling and everybody is blowing their horn. I’m not sure what they think will happen if they blow their horns. Do they think their horn is some magical device which will melt the traffic in front of them with magic? The only reason more people don’t die is because you can’t go quickly enough to kill anyone.
I also don’t like most people I see. I want to punch most of them in the face. Or at least yell at them and jump on their faces with jackboots on. I’m not sure what jackboots are but their primary purpose seems to treading down on the downtrodden. So they can surely be used for crushing faces. I don’t like the fact that people here either don’t or can’t parallel park. I don’t like how they think once they’ve parked their car it’s not their problem that the road is now almost impassable and as far as they’re concerned their car is parked perfectly and no one better ding it. These are the people whom I wish to shoot with a shotgun. In the face. I am not a cheery soul.
This city and I are not at war. But this city and I are not in love.
But I like some facets of this city. I like that it lets people from everywhere live here. People become Delhiites. You live here for any amount of time and you reach an uneasy truce with the city. You agree to look at the best bits about each other and to sweep the problems under the carpet. I don’t want to become one but I fear I might. Or I might be able to some day point at a Delhiite and say “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
It’s two minutes to midnight of the second day of the new year. Happy New Year! Or at least, New Year! It’s apparently a big deal. It doesn’t matter! Unless you committed a crime some time ago and the statute of limitations is about to run out. In which case, Congratulations! You will soon be an innocent man again. Or a man who cannot be prosecuted. Which, now that I think about it, is actually better. Innocence is no guarantee of freedom from prosecution. And on that note, let me tell you that I am listening to country and western. That information is of no consequence and is entirely unrelated to anything I’ve said so far. But this is the information age and knowledge is power and power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and we thought we were so clever in high school when we combined those two quotes to say knowledge corrupts. But then again, lots of loonies say the same thing. I’m not sure if that proves that we were crackpots in high school or that crackpots never left the high school phase.
I’ve been having a swimming holiday. By which I do not mean that it’s a holiday in which I went swimming. I haven’t been swimming in donkey’s years now. Apparently, donkey’s years has its origins in rhyming slang; it being originally donkey ears as a slang for years. How times change. Happy New Donkey Ears! Which might be a delicacy is some part of the world. I wonder if donkey meat tastes good. Horse meat apparently is good. We have the evidence of many parts of the world for that statement. Notice how I’m rambling on. I’ve decided that is going to be my shtick from now on. I am going to adopt an easy, rambling conversational style till I come up with something better. And once I come up with something better, I will finally write that book about time travel that I’ve been meaning to for the past five years. Will anybody even read this far into the post to know that I have an idea for a book? And having read this far, will they try to steal that idea from me? This is the information age and knowledge is power and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and I’ve repeated myself and this repetition is also a part of my new style since I used this technique in a previous post of mine but I won’t tell you which so go read them all! There aren’t too many. There isn’t too much punctuation either apparently. I don’t know why. I usually like punctuation.
In the days since I got on the train to come home, I have had a fight with two different people– a verbal battle, I hasten to point out. Both ended in a draw, although in the first one, they were scared of me for the rest of the journey, so yay? I definitely terrorized their kid into staying still in his seat though, so definitely yay! As you might have guessed, I’m not a fan of kids.
I met friends after a long time. Everybody’s changed. We’re all growing old. Everybody’s accepting that it’s way more important to hang out with people you’re friends with than with everybody you know. Of course, they’re too polite to put that into action. And none of them will be reading this far down the post anyway. But yes, they’re too scared of society’s condemnation to challenge it. They will be culled when I become Evil Overlord. Or kept for my personal amusement. Or made pawns in my schemes. That last one was an inside reference to one of the few people who read this blog. Now the rest of you are feeling alienated and muttering about being loyal consumers of content and deserving more attention and look at me! Don’t worry, I won’t charge you using your prefered payment method. That’s only for ice-cream. Although ice-cream is now too expensive for your payment method to work. That was also an inside joke. And that’s how sitcoms work. Inside references and jokes until continuity lock happens and you have to watch it all to keep up. This is the Arrested Development of blog posts.
I had a point when I began this post. Now it’s lost. Like the little list with your hopes and dreams on it. Now you’re just a hollow husk, earning cash for the
Man Person, trying to add some colour to your life by doing things that you think are fun and make you look like you have a life. But you know it’s all pretense. You’re only doing this so that the people you talk to become envious and then you feel a little better about yourself. You need to put others down because you can only rise by stepping on their shattered dreams and ambitions. You’ve accepted the dominant paradigm of this world. And now you’re wondering what the dominant paradigm of the world is. And now you’re coming to the slow realisation that that sentence was a load of poppycock. And now you’re leaving in a huff and I’m feeling superior to you and, according to the dominant paradigm, I’m three and two-fourth gronks ahead of you and you owe me beer. Fun fact: Dominant Paradigm is a fun thing to slip into conversation. Try it some time.
There is a certain beauty in incoherence. At certain points, it morphs into this subtle, organic mirror of life. Of course, that previous sentence was bull. Which proves that there is no beauty in my incoherence. I’m just incoherent for the sake of being incoherent. Punk Incoherence! Incoherent Punk! Dibs on the band name.
Famous people died last year. Not that my saying anything about it is of any use. But recent wikipedia lists of the deaths in a year make for depressing reading. And now that I’ve said that, people are going to be reading wikipedia like crazy. If not in this universe, then in another. That’s the fun thing about believing in many universes. It’s a consolation. It’s better than dreams, yet not real. Transient, ephemeral, subtle. I just said three random words. You guessed I was saying that so you didn’t even read the previous sentence.
I read a fair bit last year. I read a lot of non-fiction last year. It felt good. But I also read fiction. I’ve started thinking about everything I read. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of age or a sign of being annoying. I’m only blogging because you asked me if I still did.
Fun! Fun! Fun!
Life still goes on. I have not died. It gets increasingly difficult to write about yourself when each day is basically the same. There’s only so many things you can say when the highlight of your day is “Got stiffed by auto driver today. The bastard said he had no change, when I could clearly see the five bucks mocking me from his change sack. He knew I was in a hurry!” While it is full of human interest and the struggle of the everyday man and other such engrossing topics, themes that have made for great, extremely powerful and depressing literature, I am not capable of turning it into a twenty-thousand word novel. If you write a twenty-thousand word novel, I am capable of turning whatever slush you present into something publishable. I won’t be credited with it unless you are a very nice person. And let’s face it. you’re writing a novel about the fraility of life and the wretchedness of human existence. You are probably the worst melancholic who ever lived. Your friends probably go “Oh shit! There’s old Maurice again. He’s going to start on about poor coal miners slouched in their little tin shacks, with their fifteen children on account of the long dark nights and the four-thirty milk train, their old mother dying of consumption and their wife trying to make a meal out of last week’s bran mash and a rotten potato.” But you don’t have friends. You have a collection of people who avoid you but still hang on on the off chance that you might actually become famous someday. Or notorious. It’s the same thing. But my life is not like a coal miner’s, so you ignore me royally. Except to cadge drinks off me. You drunk oaf.
I have crossed the kala pani. However considering everything else that I’ve done, it’s a bit down on the list. Having spent two weeks in jolly old England, I can say it’s not too bad a place for a visit. I was lucky to get good weather generally, so walking about was a lot of fun. But I did see the typical English weather of rain-sun-gloom-sun-“oh look! It’s raining again.” It’s quite picturesque and the people seem to be fairly polite usually. But I was in a nice area so I cannot generalize. There’s not much to see in Harlow, but it does have its fair share of really lovely architechture. And it seems nicely preserved. I am also in love with the National Gallery. It houses a remarkable collection of art, it’s excellently curated, it’s not too crowded and it’s free. I have no idea how they managed that. I can say I have seen a Da Vinci in real life and the man did know his shit. But my favourite rooms were the Dutch rooms and the ones featuring the Academy.
One thing I can say from my interactions is that drunk English men love Indians. No seriously! I was told by different drunken men that they love India. One of them also thought that I needed to resolve Kashmir. Not Indians in general, me in particular. His solution to the problem was that India keeps fifty percent of Kashmir, Pakistan keeps thirty percent and China gets twenty percent. I am not sure why he felt China should get twenty percent, or why he thought the people actually living there would be cool with their land getting divided up like a pizza. I am also not sure why he thought I had any ability to effect such a change. He clearly attributes great powers to people working in publishing even if we don’t do so ourselves. His (also drunk) friends spotted him talking to me and came over. When they asked me why I was there, drunk man one said I was going to resolve Kashmir. I am overwhelmed by your faith in me, random drunk man, but I fear it is a responsibilty which is too onerous for me.
Another drunk guy told me he loved India, after he literally crawled up the stairs of a bierkeller. I first saw a mug, then a hand, then a drunk mug. The guy also kept insisting that he wasn’t an angry man. I am not sure why he felt the need to repeat that. But I have extended an open invitation to him to visit India. I hope he does. He apparently loves the community more than Indians themselves do.
I have also struck up a conversation with a random man in the hotel’s bar. This man was apparently a writer and he contributed on the Star Wars novels. I had an extremely interesting conversation with him about the franchise. He was also a Darth Maul and Kyle Katarn fan, so we got on well. He stood me two rounds of single-malt scotch. I did not know people actually did that. But he had already had a couple of rounds before that, so his generosity was quite possibly borne out of alcohol. Also he told me that all whiskys starting with “Glen” are single-malts. I wish to verify this claim.
There was a visit to the printers. They were located near Portsmouth so I got to see a bit of the sea too. I also saw a huge-ass digital printer, and by God was it impressive. It was a web press, so it basically went from web of paper to printed and folded book-block in a remarkably short time. And it was fairly good quality too. Full four colours! There was a little bit where it turned the sheet of paper at a ninety degree angle to fold it along the spine and it totally blew my mind!
Cambride is also lovely. St. John’s Chapel was astoundingly pretty and I really enjoyed walking around the river Cam. I did not go punting though. I have never tried it before and it does not look like something to attempt on one’s own. I also saw Trinity College, so I can say that I have been to Trinity College, if only technicallly.
As you can see, I’ve done a lot on this trip. I also missed my return flight and had to re-book it. So I’ve even covered that part of air travel. You become acutely aware of the flexibility of the human body when you attempt to sleep on a departure lounge bench that has fixed armrests. However the ancient hunter-gatherer instinct soon kicked in and I went scouting around. Protip: If you’re ever stranded in Heathrow T4, there’s a bench on the first floor next to the charging point near the Yotel (It’s not a spelling error. It’s actually called that.) which has no armrests. The airport has wi-fi but it’s a Boingo hotspot which you have to pay for. However the spot next to the Yotel, in addition to a charging point and a bench without armrests also lets you connect to the Yotel’s wi-fi. This only has a “I accept the terms and conditions” screen, so it’s basically free. There are also toilets nearby and a cafe. Use the lifts next to zone E to get there. The other lifts only lead to offices on the first floor. You’re welcome.
I had a decent enought journey. Delhi, seen from the sky at night, is slightly surreal. It reminded me alternately of a circuit board and a Sci-fi world. There are bits where only the street lights shone through gaps in the houses, probably because they were built very closely. But they looked like a futiristic city like in Caves of Steel. I’m not sure where but some three or four hours from Delhi, I saw a really beautiful bit of lit-up land. Flying over England and Europe by day is also not something to be sneered at, but the features are so regular it’s a bit scary. The farms and places are so geometrical, it’s a bit disconcerting. However, watching tiny cars go around roundabouts is a lot of fun. It looks like the early GTAs, to be honest.
Well, that’s about it for now. I leave you with this little bit of information. In the Wodehouse novel Summer Lightning, Gally asks Lord Emsworth when a particular incident occurred. The incident in question was Gregory Parsloe stealing Lord Burper’s false teeth and pawning them at a shop in the Edgware Road. I am pleased to report that there is actually a pawnshop on Edgware Road. Robertson’s Pawnbrokers is located at 199 Edgware Road and, according to the sign on their shop, was established in 1759. Given that Parsloe pawned the teeth sometime around 1896, it could quite concievably be the same shop. You are welcome.
I have a job. I’ve had it since November. It’s in Delhi. If someone asks me what I’m doing I’ll say “I make books.” I don’t say that actually. But I think I will. My work is fine, the team is cool but enough about work. Let’s talk about life.
I’m finally living on my own. I live in a cave. Well, not really but the place has no windows. It’s a timeless zone. There’s no way of knowing if it’s eight in the morning or eight at night.It’s not like it has no ventilation. It has plenty of ventilation, provided by two exhaust shafts. The door in second room, which I figured was a closet, was actually the door to one of the exhaust shafts. At least I have an escape route when the KGB agents come to assassinate me.
I’ve become used to moving. Now I know what I’ll be needing. I picked up the keys and then went around buying everything I needed. Mattresses, a refrigerator, an induction cooker, vessels, plates, glasses, spices, the works.
Christmas and New Year’s were kinda fun.
I can now cook decently. I can make bread omelette at four in the morning. The feeling of accomplishment is completely out of proportion to the act.
Delhi is cold but I have not gotten hypothermia yet.
I’m blogging after a long time. There’s just so much happening that writing about it has been the last thing on my mind. No, let me correct myself. Writing about it hasn’t even entered my mind. In fact, I’m going to skip writing about it. As regular readers of my blog will be aware, I seldom talk about events of a personal nature, and I’m not going to start now. Suffice to say, my beard has been sacrificed for a greater cause. It may be back, but I doubt it. I have a huge can of shaving foam and I need to use it before 2015. Assuming the world doesn’t end in a few months, of course.
Mark Knopfler, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews Band and ZZ Top have all released albums this month. Leonard Cohen, The Black Keys and Jack White released albums earlier this year. Musically, this has been a brilliant year. I’ve been listening to a lot of music. My musical tastes have also expanded. I have discovered new bands, thanks to Woman in life. The xx are of special interest.
I’ve been working at the School of Cultural Texts and Records since August 16th. It’s a project to transcribe and encode the manuscript of Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. I now have a fairly good idea of the TEI guidelines for encoding. I might become a statistic again after October though, unless other things come through. Good wishes are not enough. I shall find something else. I am now in a productive cycle.
I have started programming in my spare time again. I’ve started solving Project Euler’s problems again. It is such a kick when you enter an answer and see that it’s the correct one.
I’ve also been using stumbleupon a lot again. Some things are nice. Others not so much. I must say, It throws up shit more often than not.
I had fever last week. From the Friday before last, to be precise, till Wednesday. I went to a doctor in Calcutta. He advised me to get tested for Dengue and Malaria, even though I had none of the clinical symptoms for either disease. I did not get the tests done because they’d cost Rs.2500/- if I got it done there and I didn’t want to go about looking for a better pathology lab. So I came home, went to my regular doctor who told me I had pharyngitis, gave me medicines, told me my pharynx was visibly inflamed and I got better. The other doctor was clearly a money-grubbing idiot.
I’m thinking I’ll quit smoking. It has not been enjoyable of late, and there seems little reason to smoke if it is not enjoyable. Also, my throat has been hurting of late and quitting smoking seems like step one. I promise nothing but I think I’ll quit.
There seems nothing much to say. Hello, world!