Thursday, April 28, 2011


This one's dedicated to the two Priyas in my life! A take on the life of a Roommate in a hostel at IIT.


I have spent my first year at college staying in B-13, a 10x8 room with two other roommates or 'roomies', both of whom, coincidentally, are named Priya Ranjan. Following is an effort to understand myself through their perspective. The situation is where two roommates are talking about their fellow roomie, discussing who to room with in the Second Year, caught in the process.

Note from the author: This is a work of fiction. Classically, the term is pseudo-biographical. I call it wishful thinking. * sticks tongue out to imitate the All-pervading smiley ' :P ' *

"O' Priya", said one,
"Yes, Priya?", he said,
"He argues over things
like who sleeps on the corner bed!"
"He takes both them cupboards!"
"He sleeps, so late!"
"He dances all night and then wakes up at eight!"
"But rarely!" exclaimed,
I was outside the door,
Shush. Silence? I was caught now, for sure!
"He goes home on weekends",
A sigh of relief.
"He has three-three girlfriends!"
I hear, disbelief!
"Some say, he's a gora!"
"His laptop's a piece!"
"Wears polka-dot undies..."
War! Treachery!
"He does?", doubts Priya,
"A pair of Jimmy Choo's!"
"And three colored towels!"
Then Giggle, the girls!
"O' Priya"
"Yes Priya?"
"Which roommate'd he chose?
- The nine point FAC Rep or mini BSW?"
"One runs home on weekends!"
"The other sleeps late!"
"Pity him, there's only one roommate to take!"
"O' Priya"
"Yes Priya?"
"I too have to room!"
"To find a good partner,
A man who supports -
My ping-pong excursions,
The Java recursions,
My R^2 adventures - "
"My yawns!" "And my snores!"
"The popcorn with movies!"
"And late-night jujubes!"
"Who wakes me for quizzes!"
" 'Tis you, 'Tis You!"

"O' Priyas!"
""Yes, Priya?"
and turn, the brides
Let's dirty our hands, Its been a while!

Thus Priya, wed Priya,
I smiled by the door,
My laptop's a piece, yes
And my undies checkered

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Through My Eyes

4th October 2010, 5:45 PM

Dear Diary,

The Way I See It.

Tomorrow, I will be twenty-seven years old. I already know what my birthday present will be - mother forgets that I have sensitive ears. You don't need to score very high in your SATs to know that I still live with my parents. Father calls it "unnatural", at which mother shushes him. Father doesn't really talk much, and if ever, only to complain about the T.V. not working or the salty food. I think he secretly blames himself for my condition, and has ever since, receded into a cocoon-like shell of solitude. I feel sad thinking of him - sad and angry.

I cannot see. The medical books call it Retinitis Pigmentosa, which when translated from their medical gibberish, means "incurable". It's funny how doctors invent fancy words for "symptoms" that are not as "ornamental". They might as well be writers! "It" is genetic, they say. I call the disease "It", because I’d rather not hear the name. It's somewhat a childish fantasy, like in the Harry Potter books, where they don't take you-know-who's name, thinking by doing so, he could be avoided. It's become somewhat of a ritual now, and even my parents avoid using "the word", as they refer to it. You must wonder, how the heavens can a blind person have read Harry Potter? Well, I haven't. Not consciously. It was one of those days when mother felt it necessary for her to be a part of my education, given the circumstances, and make it all the more "fun" for me, as she used to call the reading sessions. "A chapter a day", was her motto. "Ignore her", was mine.

Occasionally, some old-county relative drops by en route, to pamper me with thoughts of positivity and happiness. It angers me, this "special attention". I haven't even seen half of them! "Get real!", I want to scream, pushing aside the thoughts that they want to plant inside my head. "Screw 'em!", a part of my mind says. "fuck 'em!", says the other.

Yesterday, mother read to me an article that came in the morning paper. Having Hope and Faith, went the words. Strangely, it made me cry. Only occasionally, to my own whim, I pick up a book to while away the time. We have an entire library in our house. Once, it was Charles Dickens, and I wouldn't relieve mother till she completed the entire book! Another time, it was John Keats, and I had to force her to read me a verse. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever, its loveliness increases..." and she stopped. I knew what she was thinking - the session ended there.

At an age when I could, I refused to attend blind school. Aunt Cece called it "The Institution for Upliftment of The Physically Challenged". I refused, still. It took 4 years and several warnings from father to "convince" me. A week later, I was home again. My anger was my reason.

Having nothing else to do but play with the pictures in my head, those that were when I still could see, I am often filled with a kind of molten anger, one that suddenly bursts out, surprising even me.

I think of strange things. God, religion, medicine, dreams...I think of them all. But most of the time, I think of love. In many ways, I have experienced it. The first time I kissed a girl was back in the days when the roses were still red. "Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever or else swoon to death." Quoted I, and leaned on to kiss her. I try to remember how she looked, my Grace.

If a shrink were to ask me, "Danny, which emotion do you most often experience?", it would have to be anger. Anger at God - wherever he is supposed to be - to have taken away my sight. Anger at the world, for how dare it remain pretty and attractive even after I could not see it? At my mother - how could she love me so much?

On Sundays, they talk about destiny and faith at the church. I attend, because I like to sit amongst people. For a moment, all thoughts vanish and my anger melts.

Dr. Tess once asked me how I felt the day I lost my vision completely. I witfully remarked, that I never lost my vision, only my sight. Dr. Tess was a nice lady. She had a sweet voice, and always wore Chanel. Had she been more persistent that day, I would have told her, that I had never really felt anything - just a blanket of darkness descend over my eyes, and a stinging pain over my heart.

A stranger on a bus once asked me why I was so mad all the time. “It gives me hope", I said. "How?"
"Because if love can give me, with all my anger, a second chance, then so can life."

Tomorrow is my twenty-seventh birthday, and in the other room, I can hear mother whispering to aunt Cece about a surprise party. I stand up from my chair and turn around. There is a table about 2 metres away. I take 10 steps, and suddenly stumble on what feels like a table leg. Hitting the carpet, I groan. From the other room, I hear a phone slam as mother's footsteps approach swiftly.
"I'm alright ,Ma. Nothing serious", I smirk.
"Daniel McQuillen! How dare you scare me like that!" she says, her voice hinting at anger.
 I smile. If love can give me a second chance, then so can life.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Drop That Fell - A Tale Of Love

“What if there is nothing down there? What if I never return?" said the droplet to the Cloud, a hint of sadness in his voice.
“Do not worry, Beloved One! Remember, I am always watching You. You are but a part of Me!”Peculiar words they were.
The Cloud had always been big. As far as the tiny drop knew, he had no beginning and no end. He was strange, in a way that he couldn't understand.  But the Cloud was all the droplet had ever had. It had been one moonlit night that he had first opened his eyes. Ever since, the cloud was  All he had and All he ever knew. It was another dark, moonlit night, the wind humming silently a song, whispering her secrets to those who listened, when the Cloud asked the drop to leave, quoting  words like "destiny" and "fulfillment", telling him that he ought to find his Purpose, to know Who He Truly Is.
"But what if I fall and get hurt?", murmured the tiny soul, taking silent gulps of air, with even tinier droplets falling from his sad blue eyes. The Cloud,  holding back a smile, swept his loving hands over the his tiny forehead, speaking words that the droplet could not hear, through his silent caresses. Alas, the moment came, and it seemed as if time were slowed down, as the droplet took the plunge into the Unknown, the Unexplored. Looking back that second, he felt the Cloud's gaze piercing his very soul, and found a sense of strength overcome his heart. The Cloud then disappeared, as the droplet fell - tears in his eyes, joy in his heart.
The Cloud was big and strange, but he also loved the droplet dearly. Not long ago had he sent him, and yet here he was, worrying about his safety. Since the droplet had left, not a moment passed without the Cloud remembering him. The Sky often joked that the Cloud's heart had left him for his beloved droplet!
One fine day, the Sun shining crisply o'er the crimson Sky, the Cloud engaged in a mist of thoughts, he heard a familiar voice call out. "O' Cloud! 'Tis me, the drop that fell!” said a strong, belligerent voice. For so long, he had dreamt of this day, and so suddenly had it crept upon him! "O' Cloud! ’Tis me, the drop that fell!” repeated the droplet's voice. On first glance, the Cloud failed to reckon him. Here was a proud, swelled-up drop, giving off an aura of Superiority. Where was his Beloved little One? "O' Cloud! Look at me! I am stronger even than you!" said the droplet, his voice familiar to the one he had known.
"When I fell, I landed on the Sea, who took me in, gave me shelter, and taught me all I know. He is the biggest in the world, and has no beginning or end. He is the King of Kings! He took me in, and I became a part of him. Now, I too am the King above all Kings!" cited the tiny thing.  The drop returned to his Sea, looking back to witness only the shadow of his past.
"How dare that drop!" cried the Sun, now hotter and brighter, his colour the most crimson red.  "Yes, how dare he!" shrieked the Sky, his usual sea-blue colour now a fusion of a fiery red and orange.
"I shall incense him and that Sea of his!","I shall summon the winds and cut him in half!" they cried. "Silence! You will do nothing! He is who he was destined to be, and none will touch him!" said the Cloud, angry with them for being angry with the drop. The Sun ,however, in his intense fury, grew hotter, blinding the Sky with his light. Down under, the Earth grew warmer as a slew of wind currents began to circulate wildly. The Sea started to rise, dissipating drop by drop, the tiny droplet amongst them.
Seeing so, the cloud summoned every ounce of his strength to save his Little One. Absorbing all the Sun's heat within, the Cloud,  now a pool white, evanescent mist, slowly started to fade away. As the Sun began to cool, moment by moment, the Cloud, consuming all the Sun's fury, finally disappeared into the depths of space-time.
The Sea was blue again, the Sun a ball of golden light, and the Sky a palette of colours. But the droplet found something missing deep within the trenches of his tiny heart. As the sky came down with a drizzle, the tiny droplet looking up, shivering in the cold that had descended, found nothing but an empty blanket of darkness. Steadily, truth dawned like the light-ray that seemed missing. A single tear rolled down from the corner of his eye, mingling together with  the others, like dust with dust. He was the drop that fell. Memories flashed by in a blink, and a rush of emotions overcame him, as a string of words emerged -
"In his eyes, I see His love,
 Like Drops of Grace, they fall on me,
 As the Ocean that surmises every tiny drop,
 He gives Me all He has."

Memoirs Of A Pizza Boy

"What? You're late! Again!”, comes the strikingly familiar remark. "Let him be, daddy!”, says the innocent, little girl, standing behind her overbearing father.  What sweet words! If only adults could see what a child does, the world would be a much better..." Oi! I won't wait all day!".
As a child, like every other in my neighbourhood, I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. The thought of flying stirred in me dichotomous emotions - a mixture of terror and excitement. My room walls were decorated with window-sized posters of Boeings and Mikoyan Gurevichs. Occasionally one faced, with apprehension, mother's scathe, over trying to conquer the world with body-art.
Presently, I work at Domino's Pizza, Greater Kailash II. My days start at 6 PM. What discerns me from the crowd is my never-say-die attitude - and of course, my "haute" delivery scooter. I like to believe that my job is a very important one - Satisfying a man's hunger is no easy task! My friends lovingly call me, “The Pizza Boy", a contemporary superhero who can get to anywhere in less than thirty minutes! Conditions apply!
I lead a pretty ascetic life - resisting the “darkest” of temptations when being surrounded by it at all times! Discipline is an integral quality. To let you in on a secret, I always carry packets of chilli flakes with me. It saves me from angry customers and managerial tirades.
Honest to truth - ever since i was adorned "Pizza Boy", life has never been the same. Certainly, there are bad days - and then there are worse ones, but whenever there's something missing in life, why not just garner it with those wonderful extra toppings life has to offer, and relish it's every "slice" ?
My life as a Pizza Boy may not boast of high-paying corporate comforts, but it certainly has that extra "sprinkling" of joy! Now where's that ketchup!

Recipe Of Finding True Happiness

1. Take a Base made of Humility
2. Spread Honesty, integrity and a mild layer of frankness
3. Add to it, toppings of Kindness and Satisfaction
4. Garnish with the chef’s favourite, Sauce De Positivity.
5. Sprinkle 3 teaspoons of joy, one for every time you felt lonely or sad
7. Add 2 mouthfuls of laughter
6. Season with “charm” and some “charisma” to taste

Your recipe is now ready to make you eternally happy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Mess

What is the first thing you see when you enter one of IIT Delhi's chauvinistic hostels? tainted walls? A library? A roomful of geeks?
The mess! A distinctive rush of euphoria floods one's entire being, as one witnesses the utter beauty of this holistic place. The mess is "big", and by big, one refers to IIT standards. Bigger than an entire section of the hostel floor.
It can seat almost 150 people at a time - But it doesn't,usually. It houses state-of-the-art architecture and seating arrangements - if only the food was better.
The Mess works by a menu, but the chief cooks constantly surprise us. Had it not been for our "experienced" seniors, one could never have guessed that the brown elastic matter was actually a "chapati". However, the cuisine speaks of immense variety - both colour and taste. Once a week, the mess has a special offering for junk-food lovers. The attendance at such an event is overwhelming - a sad state of affairs, given how unhealthy it can be.
The mess has timings - slots of two hours for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Anyone 'un'lucky enough to miss it can visit the nearby Food Court.
It's popularity is wavering - However, if plotted as a function of time, the mess' popularity can best be approximated to a strictly decreasing function, as one graduates from one semester to the next.
To be honest, the quality of food available is the best one can avail with the given resources, and saying so, i can speak only for my hostel, Karakoram. The mess staff is extremely friendly, and occasionally, one can hear them humming or singing. It is their positivity and happiness that makes the food so much better.

Note: Above picture depicts Kumaon Mess.

Machau! - A Fresher's look at Life in IIT Delhi - Shivam Verma

However hard one may try, the newly "baptized" IITian cannot help but recall his pre-JEE days, those strenuous nights of tension, when the sounds of names like DC Pandey and MS Chouhan were music to our ears, and the times of anxiety that filled our hearts with a doubt - Will i make it?
Strangely, as eight-hundred and fifty-one pairs of nervous eyes gazed in awe at the Campus Royalé of IIT Delhi, arguably one of the most prestigious Engineering Institutes in the country, the past seemed like a memory evanescent, fading away to give way to what is to be our identity for the next four-five years.
As the gates of IIT Delhi were summoned open by the lucky few, an entirely new life waited ahead. The long walk from the Academic Area to the Hostel Area became a journey - from the old to the new, from yesterday to tomorrow.
Yet with each step forward, home seemed a glance further away.
The first three weeks have been days of transformation - every second, a new experience awaits. From entering, somewhat hesitantly, a senior's room- a step forward, two back- to making friends you never knew you could have had. Eating maggi at the kiosk(!) outside IIT gate,late into the night, or running about the main building, searching for MS XYZ! Every moment carves out a stronger,better person out of us.
And while the hostel experience can be satirically termed "elite", one has learnt that we live in "houses", not hostels.
Everyone, from the 3rd year "dadajis" to our honorable Professors hold a certain allure that gravitates you towards them, for better or for worse.
Hence, while at the one end, the mess food is strikingly "tempting", and one struggles to resist the delicious aroma that fills the dining hall, the tender affection with which Butler-sahab offers us those hand-crafted pieces of abstract art(read Chapatis), one cannot but be fascinated by the strange fusion that life at IIT Delhi is.

All in all, life here seems to be a heterogeneous blend of dualities - Happiness and loneliness, excitement and anxiety, infatuation and heartbreaks.

Note: "Machau" is a hindi word signifying or implying something that is enticing,exciting and fun! It is formally a part of IIT Delhi's informal lingo.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Drops of Ankur

Introduction : In Don Bosco School,New Delhi,there is an Ankur Don Bosco initiative, where children from poor backgrounds, who cannot afford the luxury of a public school, are given free education. While in class 12, our class 12-B 2009-2010, as a part of Work-Ex, was given the opportunity to interact with them,to teach them,to learn from them and to,particularly, entertain them on children's day.
The initiative, is lovingly called, Ankur Don Bosco or simply Ankur School. The word "ANKUR", a part of the beautiful hindi language, means "seed,sprout" and represents the growth and change that is life itself.

The Sun was about to set,and we were bidding the children goodbye. Our class, 12 B, had been given the responsibility of organizing children's day for
Don Bosco Ankur's children.
Over the past few months, i had come to know,see and admire these children for the wonderful gifts they had. They were always cheerful, ready as ever to recite
their beautiful poems with visual detail. The little ones were never apprehensive of asking questions, and many of them were very bright. They cherished all that they
possessed, be it a half-shaven pencil or a set of crayons. Their eyes shone with excitement - learning for them was a joy.
Our day began when school ended, and though all we had till then were ideas, everyone set to the task allotted to them. Some ran after the microphones, while others
guarded the "treasure". After the children arrived, we began with a quizzing session that turned out to be quite popular. The smaller children were led to a different
location, where some of the volunteers played games with them. The enthusiasm that poured out from these children was awe-inspiring. We found ourselves marvel at
the multitudes of talent that lay untapped within them.
Later on, two teams were invented, and they were given the task of finding a hidden treasure on the basis of clues and hints. One could witness them run excitedly, in
search of a treasure that became an instrument of expressing the joy that permeates their hearts.
In a moment of sudden strangeness, i found myself willing to talk to these children whom i barely reckoned, to share my joys with them,to express the feeling of closeness
that i felt with them. It struck me - humanity knows no boundaries of caste,gender,creed - it knows only the language of love. And it was this love, in varied forms
that i had been receiving, that bound me in an invisible relationship with them.
Soon, it was time for us to send them home. Every child was given a neatly wrapped set of two pencils and an eraser, and it was then that i saw the little girl,dressed in
her best attire,seated peacefully on the floor, her head moving about impatiently,as if searching for something she seemed to miss.
I had seen her before, when i had come to participate in the Ankur Outreach programme, where we would teach these children English, Hindi and Math.
She seemed to notice my presence,and as i handed her the prize, her face lit up with a smile that one rarely sees. She took the gift, and shyly said," Thank you Bhaiyya,".
My heart poured with joy, not of having been able to give something, but of having received so much - the strange feeling of closeness that i felt, the wondrous moments
that i spent with these drops of Ankur that seemed as if to have fallen from the kingdom of God, like rain to nourish the Earth. The thirst for a higher meaning to life,
and the divine grace that manifests itself in our shallow lives - in the eyes of a mother, in the blessings of a teacher.

Friday, June 25, 2010

How Do I Give It Back To You

Received 1st Prize in Kaavyalaya, an inter-college Poetry Contest at Literati 2010, literary fest of IIT Delhi.

What can a son give the mother,
What can a seed give to the earth,
Be a part of Me,the Ocean says,
And the teardrop becomes a pearl.
Closer than the sunlight, farther than the Sun,
Beyond light and darkness, may the Two become One.
Like a child i chase the butterfly, fearing it may escape,
With love, You hold my hand, piercing the illusory veil.
Like an Artist, You create on the canvas of the world,
The humble grass green, the sky blue.
You colour, fill the Rose with fragrance,
How can i give it back to You?
Mad heart, be still, i cannot hear Him call out my name,
The nightingale she sings the melody,not caring that listens.
Like a kite i fly in the open skies, the string is in Your hands,
A water crystal in the Sea am i, a tiny grain of sand.
You lit the lamp and hid behind, 'Tis You, 'Tis You, i seek,
Like the flame that burns the candle itself,
Consume me, O' Divinity.
The wind, she hums silently, in the dark of the moonlit night,
As i walk by the ocean shore, with love, i set love alight.

A Story

Each day, as the first ray of sunlight, piercing the transient clouds of darkness, embraces the earth with a father-like warmth, and the mother sparrow,
puffing, fluttering her wings, leaps out into the world to return to the call of her young ones, there comes but a magical moment. As the morning breeze makes her
way through the joyous gardens that brim with life, she drops in the hands of each one, a glittering pearl.
It is the gift of life - a new dawn, a new breathe, the power to wield one's destiny oneself.
But as the day moves on mechanically, dusk approaches, and as the sun fades away into a speck of stardust, it takes with it all the pearls that lay
unnoticed in our tiny hands.
It is said, life is worthless without a purpose,a vision,or as many self-help authors would suggest, the end in mind.
Just like a footballer(soccer player for some!) who with an undeterred vision - to see that ball soar,leap and enter that goalpost! - carries the ball along, dribbling past opponents, cutting and kicking the ball just when the hot rush of foreign air(and shouts of fellow kinmen!) intuitively tells him that the Other Side approaches! And thud! The crowd jumps as the ball swishes past the hands of the keeper to enter the goalpost. Just like him, we too, as beings of life, envision our aim and end, to dribble past that neckbreaker, to cut across that cloud of depression, to trick the mist of fate that follows us, and finally land the ball in the hole, and reach there,where we belong.
In that pursuit, i walk, and don't we all? Towards true happiness and fulfillment,i move, as don't we all? Forward,forward, i stread. Don't we all?
It's strange how success rewards you in such a simple manner.
For the past one year, i had been preparing for the much-hyped IIT-JEE 2010. For those who know little, it's a 6-hour gruesome exam session meant to test the aptitude and skill of high school graduates, to allow them to enter the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology(IITs). I had never really seen myself as much of an engineer, however, having chosen science, i discovered,in this last year, an attachment to physics. But that is besides the point.
On 26th may, i learnt, rather witnessed, myself as being one of the lucky 10,000 or so people who managed to crack the exam. My rank was an all-india 1420, pretty good,it seems. Since then, rather, since the day i gave IIT-JEE, a void filled my life, an empty space, which in retrospect, seems to be the lack of a purpose. My life needs a direction, as does yours, or anyone else's. I cannot live alone, and lead a life of misery,without meaning, which seems, is not how nature meant us to be.
I have since come to try this new experiment - to slowly recede,mentally, from all state of affairs, and second by second, move out, to be a witness to everything around me. Slowly, you move out of your little world,to see how the world really is.The room vanishes and empty space emerges, and earth seems to look like a dot on an endless canvas.The universe is so big, one feels so little,yet so much.