A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Jagjit Singh, 1941-2011 October 10, 2011

Filed under: Inspiration,nostalgia,poetry — gurdas @ :

Jagjit Singh in concert at Durham, NC. April 2009.


“Jaggu-Chittu” was how we addressed the pair when in high school. Their music lifted our hearts, had us sing to our loves, and connected us to the mysterious. Chittu took her voice away after the loss of her son. And now, Jaggu is gone. I did not know him personally. Nor have I met him, though I did attend a concert 2 years ago. And yet this seems like a personal loss. In fact, my first personal great singer loss. Because the way I associate with Rafi, Kishore, and Jagjit is unlike any other singer, except maybe Lata and Asha but they are both alive. Rafi sahib passed away when I was learning the alphabets. Kishore da said goodbye when I was still a kid. And so their loss did not register the way this one did. My thoughts go back to that evening, some 15 years ago, when listening to the album Insight, I peeled a few layers off my ignorance.

अच्छी सांगत पा के संगी बदले रूप, जैसे मिल के आम से मीठी हो गयी धुप| (from the track Dohe in the album Insight)
Translation: In the company of the good, you acquire goodness. Just the way sunshine becomes sweet upon meeting the ripe mango.

जगजीत साहिब, आपने जिन शब्दों को आवाज़ दी, वोह हम हमेशा गुनगुनाते रहेंगे| ताकि आपकी अच्छी सांगत हमेशा साथ रहे|

Also see this previous post.


the joy of darkness November 18, 2010

Filed under: Children,India,Me,nostalgia — gurdas @ :

Mann Hall, third floor

Mann Hall, which houses the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering was plunged into “darkness” for a few hours today due to a transformer failure. In the two and a half years I have been here this is the first such incident. And it was tons of fun! No internet and spooky corridors. There was enough light in the corridors and rooms with windows while some of the inner rooms, like my office, did not. During my stay here, I have experienced Mann Hall every possible hour of the day. Some day I was here at 9 pm, another day at 1 am, and yet another day at 5 am. Yes, every one of those 24 hours. And I have never ever seen the corridors without man made light. Until today. It felt eerie for a moment, as if the building had been killed. But within no time, I was having fun, working in the dark, experiencing the corridors, or just chit chatting with fellow researchers about this “event”.

And my mind wandered to younger days in India when load shedding was a commonly heard phrase. It would be 8 pm and the young me would be reluctantly struggling with boring history texts when suddenly, poof!, we’d be thrown into darkness. In that split second following power outage, I know for sure, every child’s face was lit with joy. If our teeth had any irradiance it might have blinded our families, such was the total number of teeth flashing across the neighbourhood. With peals of laughter we’d spill into the streets outside and start playing. History was history and the present was running amok or hiding, depending on the game. We’d continue till power was restored and our mothers would call for us to come home. Exams were an exception because it meant studying under the flickering light of a lamp or a candle; we had battery operated electric lights only later.

City life is mostly artificial and insulates us from relishing the natural joys abound around us . So much so that we are bereft of the amazement that comes from looking at a star studded sky. “Lights out” restored some of that balance. And in those hours of darkness I had some of my brightest moments.


worth a watch March 14, 2010

Filed under: family,love,Me,nostalgia — gurdas @ :

my watch, since 1992

An ordinary watch made extraordinary by its survival. 18 years and counting.

I was all of 15 when my father gave me this Titan timepiece. Since then it has stayed on my wrist about 20 hours a day and 365 days a year. And it has not stopped for one single moment except when needing a battery, o-ring, or glass replacement.

I remember it cost a mere Rs. 450 ($10) or thereabouts. It has been my only wrist watch from the day it came into my life and I hope to maintain that till it ticks. The many years of wear has weathered it, just like me. Its steel body has scars and dents and the dial face has yellowed along the edges. I keep it clean by washing it under running tap water using soap and a toothbrush! Wonder how many people do that with their watch. I do.

Over the years, it has lost some of its water resistance and the display fogs when it is subjected to one of my cleaning sessions or rainfall. I am guessing it will last a few more years and will then rest in peace in my wardrobe.

To remind me of my loving father. And to remind me that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is the ‘extra’ distance travelled.


Is – Was – Will Be November 14, 2009

Filed under: Inspiration,life,nature,nostalgia — gurdas @ :
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“The COSMOS is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries” – Carl Sagan, Chapter 1, Cosmos


Carl Sagan's celebrated TV series and book - Cosmos

I saw the series on TV when I was all of 13. I sat wide eyed as Carl Sagan spoke poetically about the love of his life. About Life. About the Cosmos. About human endeavour and discovery. About curiosity and scientific exploration. I did not understand all he was saying. But my awe and amazement was unbound. My fate was sealed. I was to pursue a career that stays close to science.


Carl Sagan, photo scanned from the back cover of his book, Cosmos


19 years later nothing has changed. I am still as curious. I am still a wide eyed 13 year old boy watching in wonderment the magic that unfolds around me everyday. November 7 was Carl Sagan Day, and when my friend Jim posted this on his facebook profile, the idea germinated that we celebrate this extra-ordinary man’s life by sharing his vision. We were disappointed that we did not gather a crowd for the “trial” screening, but the pleasure of watching Episode 1 on a big screen was no less. And the Cosmos wanted to say “Hi!”, so the day brought what I believe to be one of the most momentous Cosmic events of my very brief lifetime. NASA announced that  LCROSS impact data indicates water on Moon.

We plan to establish a Carl Sagan society on campus, spread word to where enthusiasts could be (say the Physics department), and make this an annual event.

Carl Sagan said goodbye in December 1996, and as he would have liked to say, so returned star dust to where it came from.


run to you June 19, 2009

Filed under: family,love,Me,nostalgia — gurdas @ :

In a distant land, on a hot, dry day, my thoughts wander to younger years. I would return home from school around 3 pm, preoccupied with thoughts of playing. What would follow is a battle of wits between mother and me. She would like me to stay at home until the afternoon has mellowed and the Sun isn’t scorching hot. I was of the opinion that the Sun is too trivial a reason to stop me from playing. Usually mother had her way.

But sometimes I would cheat. Upon reaching home, I would slip my fingers into the crack between the window shutters, open the window, throw my school bag in, and run. The bag always landed on the bed mother used for sleeping, so she would wake up and shout after me “come back, it is too hot!” That 12 year old Gurdas could not have cared less. In fact, I’d be running as fast as my legs could go and probably be out of earshot by the time mother would wake up.

Today, I can hear her voice playing in my head and notice how much love there is. I wish my mother was around to scold me for that too is laden with love. She is old, her skin has wrinkled, and old age has settled in. But mother, this son of your is a kid who wants to hear your voice, feel your caress, plant a kiss, and get wrapped in a hug. And mother, June is still hot and I still want to run away. Only this time I want to run to you.